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Injured foot, broken radio can’t deny Inter Europol Le Mans LMP2 win

Polish team Inter Europol Competition won the LMP2 class of the Le Mans 24 Hours despite a broken radio system and its driver, Fabio Scherer, suffering a suspected broken foot.

Podium: Winner #34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca 07 - Gibson of Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa, Fabio Scherer

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

It was the first ever World Endurance Championship victory for a Polish team, and the car was chased home by Team WRT’s #41 car that featured Polish ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica in its lineup.

The gap between the two ORECA-Gibson 07s was just 21s after 24 hours of racing.

“It’s unbelievable, it was so hard fighting to the very last second at the finish,” said Swiss driver Scherer. “For a private team from Poland to win their first win now, it’s amazing.

“It’s been one year of hard work, because after last year we built up the team a bit differently and now we win it, so that’s unbelievable.”

While he “never braked with the right foot, I thought it’s impossible to change”, Scherer explained that he learned to brake “with the whole leg instead of with the foot” after sustaining his left foot injury when he was hit by the Nicky Catsburg's GTE Am class-winning Corvette in the pitlane.

He had to hop on his right leg to the car, and then lever himself into the cockpit.

“After 15 minutes of the race, I thought ‘my race is over’ because it hurt a lot,” Scherer said in the post-event press conference.

“But with a lot of ice and with a lot of treatment, I was able to race - or at least I think the adrenaline kicked in enough that I was able to race. After that I was in the flow and it just worked.

“Now I started to feel my foot more and more, but it doesn’t matter because to win Le Mans... I don’t care if I can't walk out [of] here.”

#34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca 07 - Gibson of Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa, Fabio Scherer

#34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca 07 - Gibson of Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa, Fabio Scherer

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Catsburg said: “Like always, it was a miscommunication. He ran in front of the car and that was exactly when I pulled in.

“I was coming in and I couldn't really go anywhere because I was trying to go into my spot. I didn't even see, I just felt something and afterwards I heard he broke his toe.”

Scherer’s final stints were made harder due to a failed radio system that meant his team were relaying messages from the pitwall with hastily-made signals – for which it received a reprimand from race stewards late on.

“For sure it didn’t help,” said Scherer of the lack of communications. “But at the end I just said ‘I just need to drive flat out’, there was nothing else to do.

“We spoke about it in the box before I got in, and we weren’t sure we could change drivers because the door didn’t open properly, but at Le Mans sometimes you need some luck!”

Scherer's team-mate, Polish driver Jakub Smiechowski, added: “It’s just incredible, what can I say? It’s a dream come true.

“I think it’s all about the hard work we’ve put in these last few years. I’m really speechless.”

Inter Europol’s third driver, Spaniard Albert Costa, said: “I’m the oldest rookie in the championship, but I’m a rookie who has won Le Mans now. I’m lost for words, it’s amazing.”

Additional reporting by Stephen Lickorish

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