Fire removed RLR MSport from the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of The Bend in South Australia (10-12 January).

The British team was in contention for a second Asian Le Mans win at The Bend Motorsport Park, when fire broke out and caused extensive damage to the #59 ORECA 05 LMP2 during the second hour of Sunday’s race.

Rain affected the first Asian Le Mans test session at Tailem Bend, but conditions steadily improved and drivers got to sample the South Australian circuit in the dry during FP1 on Friday afternoon.

Altogether, teams benefited from five and a half hours of on-track preparation and RLR MSport made the best of it, topping the free practice leaderboard before securing a second consecutive Asian Le Mans pole position.

A red flag stoppage interrupted the LMP2 segment of qualifying, but Maini’s first contribution – 2m43.235s – was enough to propel RLR MSport to P1 in the LMP2 Am classification.

A strong start to the four-hour race on Sunday afternoon ensured RLR MSport kept the initiative. Maini made hay and lapped significantly faster than the chasing pack to draw out a healthy advantage for John Farano and Andy Higgins to protect.

The young Indian enjoyed a clear track for much of his stint but made light work of lapped traffic to record personal best times in the 1m45s that were merely three seconds slower than those of the outright race leaders from the quicker LMP2 Pro class.

However, RLR MSport found itself at a disadvantage after the first round of driver-change, as its nearest LMP2 Am rivals had minimised their time-loss by pitting under an early Full Course Yellow.

Unfortunately, RLR MSport’s push for a second Asian Le Mans victory came to a dramatic conclusion when fire broke out at the rear of the #59 ORECA 05 during Farano’s stint on lap 26.

Farano safely vacated the cockpit and was given a clean bill of health after precautionary checks at the on-site medical centre, but while The Bend Motorsport Park marshals were quick to extinguish the flames, the damage to the car was extensive.

RLR MSport Director of Motorsport Operations, Nick Reynolds, said: “Having won on our Asian Le Mans Series debut in Shanghai and been in contention for a second victory here in South Australia, we’re naturally devastated. The extent of the damage prevents us from identifying the cause of the fire, but we’re just pleased that John (Farano) extricated himself from the car safely. We’re also grateful for the quick actions of The Bend Motorsport Park marshals, who were immediately on the scene to extinguish the flames.”