RLR MSport finished eighth and sixth in the fraught Michelin Le Mans Cup ‘Road to Le Mans’ races (17-19 September), thanks to combative performances from James Dayson and Malthe Jakobsen at Circuit de la Sarthe.
The Loire Valley awoke to the sound of Le Mans Cup FP1 on Thursday (17 September) morning. The 60-minute free practice session was the time for Dayson and Jakobsen to get their eye in at the 13.6km Le Mans circuit, but it was a good showing by RLR MSport, which ended up second overall in the 3m50s.
The Motul-powered team carried its form into FP2. Dayson did the bulk of the driving and the Canadian Am found pace, but the quickest times came from Denmark’s Jakobsen, who ultimately improved to a 3m47.780s to seal P3 in the final throes.
Unfortunately, clean laps were hard to come by in the two-part qualifying session on Friday (18 September) morning, and RLR MSport’s driving duo languished on the cusp of the top ten, only securing tenth for race one and 11th for race two.
Most teams opted to install their Pro drivers for the start of the first ‘Road to Le Mans’ race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday (18 September), but it was Canadian Am racer Dayson who took the opening stint in the #15 RLR MSport Ligier JSP320.
Naturally, Dayson lost ground against such experienced professionals, completing a dogged drive in 17th overall, but Jakobsen lapped at the leaders’ pace in the 3m49s to pick up several positions, leaping from P11 to P8 on the final lap alone.
The second Le Mans Cup race, however, was held during the build-up to the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday (19 September) morning, and RLR MSport’s Dayson and Jakobsen would have plenty of overtaking to do from a lowly 11th on the grid.
Overnight rain created greasy, low-grip conditions, and officials took a conservative decision to start the 55-minute race behind the Safety Car.
The Le Mans Cup field was released on lap three and Dayson found himself at the centre of a fraught multi-car battle in 13th.
Despite carrying a damaged front splitter, the Vancouver-domiciled driver was on the offensive and pulled off a bold pass on the 12th-placed #24 United Autosports car at Indianapolis, just before being summoned into the pits.
Jakobsen, though, was ninth and considerably faster than those around him after the stops; the Dane pounced on the #6 CD Sport car at the Ford Chicane and executed a late-braking manoeuvre on the #27 Racing Experience machine at Mulsanne Corner, before hunting down and overtaking MV2S Racing for sixth on the penultimate lap.
“Overall, it has been a good week,” said Dayson. “Le Mans is a challenging track, constantly changing as more rubber gets laid down. The surface was incredibly green, but Malthe (Jakobsen) and I did some really good work to improve the car and our driving technique. We didn’t get the qualifying we wanted and knew we would have our work cut out in the races. I had a poor start and didn’t drive to the best of my ability in race one, but race two was better, as some phenomenal passing got us up to sixth. It was good to get out at Le Mans and the track time will certainly have kept us fresh for when we return to the European Le Mans Series.”
Jakobsen added: “I’ve always considered Le Mans to be the best track in the world and it lived up to my expectations. When I was six years old, I went with my Dad to watch the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans, and to race there has always been a big dream. I was told it isn’t an easy track to learn but I adapted quickly, going second in FP1 and third in FP2. Those performances made me believe a podium was possible, but I have to be happy with my results, lap times and overtakes, and I’m as keen as ever to reach the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”