RLR MSport finished the dramatic European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in seventh, having once again fought for silverware with Malthe Jakobsen, James Dayson and Robert Megennis (7-9 August).
Wednesday’s test proved invaluable for ELMS and LMP3 debutant Megennis, as it enabled him to get up-to-speed with his teammates while RLR MSport worked to optimise the #15 Ligier JSP320’s balance.
A host of setup changes were made over the course of the day and in free practice to dial out excessive understeer, and feedback from drivers Jakobsen, Dayson and Megennis was entirely positive in FP2 on Saturday morning.
Come qualifying, Jakobsen felt completely at one with the #15 Ligier and recorded a 2m14.559s after surviving a lurid moment at the exit of Pouhon, to secure fifth on the LMP3 starting grid.
However, the Danish teenager was lightning fast out of the starting blocks on Sunday morning, picking off three rivals to rise from fifth to second on the opening tour of the 7km Spa circuit.
After executing a pass for P2 on the #4 DKR Engineering machine at Campus corner, Jakobsen was able to focus on keeping the class-leading #2 United Autosports entry of Rob Wheldon within sight until an early Safety Car condensed the entire field.
Jakobsen gave Wheldon very little breathing space at the resumption of racing, his dogged pursuit of first place going on until the very end of an impressive 75-minute run, when RLR MSport installed Dayson for a pre-planned double stint on fresh tyres.
The Canadian Am was fourth and on the back of Realteam Racing after the first round of LMP3 driver-changes, but contact that tipped the #8 car of Esteban Garcia into a spin at La Source, which resulted in a drive-through penalty, was followed by a pirouette for Dayson himself.
Now fifth, Dayson ran competitively. Tyre management was deemed important in the scorching summer heat, which peaked at 34 Celsius, but concerns over tyre-life fell away along with the temperatures as the skies darkened, and rain threatened.
RLR MSport cycled back up to the podium places during the third hour, Dayson surviving a busy Full Course Yellow (FCY) restart among impatient LMP2s and a dramatic spin on the brakes for Les Combes to bring the team back into contention.
The wet weather arrived as RLR MSport switched Dayson for Megennis and replaced a damaged legality panel at the rear of the #15 Ligier JSP320, but it turned out to be a short, sharp rain shower and the team wisely chose to stick with slicks.
RLR MSport tumbled down the LMP3 timing screens while carrying out the obligatory repairs, but Megennis was immediately on the class leaders’ pace and made up three spots during an impressive maiden ELMS race run, which featured a decisive pass for seventh into the final corner of the final lap.
“We all would have liked to have finished on the podium today, but I’m only 16 and a rookie so I can be satisfied with what we achieved,” said Jakobsen. “The first lap was fantastic because I went from fifth to second, and while there were a couple of Safety Cars during my stint, I’m pleased with the job I did. We now go back to Le Castellet, where we had a really good setup and achieved a podium last time around, so things are looking very good for us.”
Megennis added: “I surprised myself with my pace. I’m an endurance racing rookie who had a very limited amount time to practice, but RLR MSport gave me a great car and, although conditions were tough, I managed to rise three positions, throwing a pass for seventh into the Bus Stop chicane on the last lap. I think we had a really good race car with the potential to finish on the podium, but I’m satisfied with the way I drove. In fact, the whole European Le Mans Series experience with RLR MSport has been so much fun. The Ligier JSP320 was a blast, the racing was super intense, and then you have Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which exceeded all expectations.”