RLR MSport put up a good fight on its return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but ultimately succumbed to a mechanical failure with less than four hours of the French endurance classic remaining (15-16 June).
The 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans commenced in warm and sunny conditions at the traditional 15:00 start time on Saturday (15 June), and a clean getaway enabled RLR MSport’s Norman Nato to maintain 14th position on the opening lap.
Unfortunately, a fuel rig problem caused significant delays in each of RLR MSport’s pit stops, negating many of Nato and teammates Arjun Maini and John Farano’s on-track gains and all but halting the team’s forward momentum.
Nevertheless, India’s Maini still rose to 11th in LMP2 during his first race run, only for RLR MSport to lose heaps of time when the #43 ORECA nudged into the tyre barriers at Tertre Rouge on Saturday evening.
The car sustained light front-end damage that was cured with a simple nose-change, but RLR MSport now languished down in 16th and would spend the rest of the night trying to bridge the significant deficit to their nearest rivals.
After midnight, RLR MSport began to make headway; once again, the resilient and determined British team climbed to 11th as Nato, Maini and Farano all completed uneventful stints during the hours of darkness.
The team continued cycling through its drivers, triple stinting throughout Sunday morning, and Nato ramped up the pace to get in among the fastest LMP2 drivers in the 3m29s before passing the reins to Maini, who was at the controls of the #43 ORECA 07 LMP2 when it suffered a terminal failure during the 20th hour of the twice-around-the-clock endurance race.
“The whole 24 Hours of Le Mans experience has been awesome,” said Maini. “We’ve been a bit unlucky overall, suffering with a few little issues, so it hasn’t been the perfect start to my Le Mans career, but I definitely have a taste for it now. It has taught me a lot, because no matter what comes our way, we can rise up and keep fighting. It’s disappointing to retire so close to the end but there’s nothing we could have done about it.”
Nato added: “This has been a great experience for me, because it’s only my second 24 Hours of Le Mans and it has taught me a lot, especially about things relating to tyre management, fuel saving and driving Circuit de la Sarthe in the wet. It’s a shame we couldn’t finish because of mechanical issues, but we completed a lot of laps, made a good amount of progress and showed pace, so I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished and what I’ve contributed.”