The ultra-consistent RLR MSport, Nick Adcock, Michael Jensen and Alex Kapadia have progressed to second in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) LMP3 standings, having raced to fourth in the scorching 4 Hours of Monza (1-3 July).
RLR MSport had both cars inside the top eight in LMP3 at the end of the first 90-minute free practice session at Monza – Italy’s ‘Temple of Speed’ – the #5 of Jensen, Adcock and Kapadia fourth and the #15 of Horst Jr Felbermayr, Valentino Catalano and Austin McCusker eighth.
In FP2 on Saturday (2 July) morning, the red #5 Ligier sustained front and rear-end damage in a brush with the wall at Variante del Rettifilo, and while the #15 was absent until the closing stages of the 90-minute session, Catalano shot to the very top of the times by recording a 1m45.613s during a short five-lap stint.
However, the LMP3 segment of qualifying at Monza was hotly contested with positions second to ninth split by just half a second, and RLR MSport locked out the third row of the grid, Kapadia just pipping Catalano in to fifth position.
After a stonking drive through the field from 29th to fifth in the supporting Michelin Le Mans Cup Monza Round, Catalano was chosen to start the headlining ELMS race but was denied the opportunity to repeat his LMC masterclass when the #15 Ligier retired with an overheating engine at the end of lap two.
From fifth on the grid, Adcock was quick to set personal best lap times in a valiant bid to maintain track position, and the South Africa-based Am completed an extended 1h15m stint punctuated by three Safety Cars well inside the top ten.
Jensen, though, went as high as third in LMP3 during the second hour when the race was predominantly free of stoppages, his efforts keeping RLR MSport in the fight for a top six result.
Kapadia emerged from the last of the driver-changes in eighth but was then almost a full lap down on the class leaders following a fourth Safety Car, although he recorded the fastest LMP3 racing lap to catch and pass both the #10 Eurointernational and #27 Cool Racing cars on the road, before also getting the better of the #2 entry.
The British Pro received the chequered flag in fourth and he, Adcock and Jensen subsequently progress to second in the standings, four points adrift of the championship-leading #17 Cool Racing crew with three rounds remaining.
“It’s absolutely awesome to be second in the championship and back in the hunt for the European Le Mans Series LMP3 title at this stage of the season,” said Kapadia. “Fourth at Monza is very satisfying and I’m quite pleased with my own performance, especially as I come away with the fastest lap. I took over the car in eighth and pulled off quite a few overtakes. It was just flat out the whole way, and I’ve never driven a car in such heat, with cockpit temperatures exceeding 50 Celsius. It was a battle of fitness and endurance, which was good fun, and I’m really looking forward to Barcelona where conditions could be quite similar.”
Jensen added: “I am obviously very happy with the end result. The track conditions became trickier as the temperatures increased during the race, the track getting to 54 Celsius and the air to 37 Celsius. We tried to find a balance between speed and tyre conservation while managing the traffic as best as possible, and it was not my best race performance. Nevertheless, we were focused on keeping it clean and scoring as many points as possible for the championship. My teammates Nick (Adcock) and Alex (Kapadia) both drove well and we’re already looking forward to the next race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where we expect to experience similarly hot conditions.”
Adcock said: “I think the entire European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza weekend has been dominated by the exceptionally high temperatures. On race day we saw the track soar to 54 Celsius and the air to 37 Celsius, and we all battled with that. It was the same for everyone, of course, but the car struggled and Michael (Jensen) and myself were perhaps a little too cautious.
“I found it difficult to get into a proper groove, given the number of Safety Cars and Full Course Yellows we experienced. The neutralisations helped us in the first stint because we were quite close to the frontrunners when we pitted, but we somehow lost nearly a lap to the leaders under a Safety Car that occurred during Alex’s stint late in the race. Nevertheless, Alex pulled off a great recovery, setting very fast laps to finish another reliable run for the #5 Ligier that promotes us to second in the championship through sheer consistency.”