For RLR MSport, collecting points to reinforce its position at the top of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) LMP3 Teams’ and Drivers’ standings is the chief objective for the penultimate round of the 2018 season at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (21-23 September).
Following an excellent win in the curtain-raising 4 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard, a triumphant outing at the Red Bull Ring in Austria’s Styrian Alps and a solid points finish ahead of its main title rivals on home ground at Silverstone, RLR MSport is in control at the top of the LMP3 classification.
The Bolton-based team has a 12-point lead over Eurointernational with only two four-hour races remaining at Belgium’s legendary Spa circuit and Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal (26-28 October), and it is now playing the numbers game with driving trio Job van Uitert, John Farano and Rob Garofall.
However, RLR MSport’s attention will once again be split between the ELMS and the Michelin Le Mans Cup, which resumes at Spa-Francorchamps after a two-month hiatus.
Third place at Autodromo Nazionale Monza is the standout result from a relatively luckless Le Mans Cup season and RLR MSport subsequently hopes to turn a corner and score big with the #14 Ligier JSP3 of Van Uitert and Farano and the #59 entry of Alex Kapadia and Ross Warburton, to rise from a lowly seventh in the championship.
The Belgian leg of the ELMS and Le Mans Cup serves as Van Uitert’s home race and the 19-year old Dutch racer from Dongen is understandably keen to scale the winners’ rostrum in the Ardennes Forest, saying: “The 4 Hours of Spa; I want to win it. We will have to see where we stand during the weekend itself, but I want to be the quickest out there and help the team reach a level where we have a good chance of podium results in both the ELMS and Michelin Le Mans Cup.
“The season so far has been pretty good. We’ve had two wins and we’re leading the championship going into the penultimate round at Spa and I wasn’t expecting that much from my first season in the ELMS. The competition is incredibly strong – there are some really good driver line-ups in high-level teams, so it’s a very tough year in which to be competitive. To win, you can’t make any mistakes and that’s what we’ve managed until now.”
Garofall added: “I think at the moment we have to approach Spa in the same way as all the other races. We have to go there intending to win, or at least do our very best, because if we start thinking about the championship there is a danger of being too conservative. We must push for the win! We had a broken exhaust for most of the Silverstone round and mistakes cost us time, but we still came home in sixth, so we know with a clean run we will be in the mix. Spa is a circuit we all know very well and the Ligier JSP3 should go well there so it’s all to play for.”
Kapadia concluded: “I think Ross (Warburton) and I would be overjoyed with a top ten result in the Michelin Le Mans Cup’s Spa round, but it’s difficult to know how we will stack up until we hit the track in free practice. Ross returned to the series and produced a very creditable performance at the Red Bull Ring in July, but Spa is a confidence circuit. We tested there a month or so ago and he knocked a couple of seconds off his previous best lap time, so we’re feeling good about it. However, Spa is exciting, not only because of its challenging layout, but because the weather is so unpredictable. As a result, it’s always hard to make any predictions. We will just have to see how the weekend pans out.”
The first European Le Mans Series free practice session at 12.00 will precede the Bronze Collective Test at 16.30 on Friday (21 September), while second practice and LMP3 qualifying will be held the following day from 9.05 and 13.32 respectively (Saturday 22 September).
The headlining ELMS 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is scheduled to commence at 12.30 on Sunday (23 September).
Michelin Le Mans Cup free practice takes place at 10.45 and 15.15 on Friday (21 September), with LMP3 qualifying at 12.00 and the two-hour race at 15.50 on Saturday (22 September).