RLR MSport has been engaged in several entertaining battles during the first third of the 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans, but its charge is being frustrated by a fuel-rig problem.
As the sun set on the Loire Valley on Wednesday evening, the priority was not to chase quick lap times, but for RLR MSport’s trio of drivers – Norman (Nato), Arjun (Maini) and John (Farano) to complete their five mandatory laps during the hours of darkness.
Each session was spent trying to cure a balance issue with the #43 ORECA and improving times suggested progress was being made, but while drivers were satisfied with their pace, the quickest times came in the cooler night time temperatures of Qualifying-Practice 3, Nato setting a 3m28.803s to secure 14th on the LMP2 grid.
The 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans commenced in warm summer sunshine on Saturday (15 June) and Nato made use of a clean getaway to remain in position, before spending much of his stint chasing down Panis Barthez Competition’s Will Stevens.
Unfortunately, his charge was frustrated by a fuel rig issue that continues to cost RLR MSport approximately ten seconds in each pit stop; the gaps subsequently ebbed and flowed, but Maini managed to make some headway, rising to P11 during his first run before giving way to Farano.
On lap 59, Farano was released into a comfortable 13th place and the Canadian driver successfully managed his advantage over the chasing pack, steadily upping the pace and ultimately dipping into the 3m40s.
However, towards the end of his triple stint, the RLR MSport driver nudged the #43 ORECA into the tyre barriers at Tertre Rouge, sustaining light front-end damage that was cured with a simple nose-change.
Nato returned to the fray when Farano nursed the car back to the pits and recovered to P16 before passing the reins back to India’s Maini just before 23:00 on Saturday evening.
“The pace was good from the beginning to the end of my stints, and the RLR MSport ORECA 07 was one of the fastest LMP2s on-track towards the end of my first run,” said Nato. “Unfortunately, we discovered a problem with the fuel pump that will cost us a lot of time in every pit stop. It’s frustrating because I would charge towards my competitors during my stints and then fall back in the stops, and I’m sure I could have challenged the top six at the start if it wasn’t for that. We were triple stinting the tyres and the performance was good, especially as the temperatures dropped. I just have to continue to do the same job in all of my other stints.”
Maini added: “I think my performance was quite good. The car was strong during the first part of my stint and I had some close battles, although I did have to pass a few cars twice because of the fuel rig issue that’s costing us time in the pit stops. There’s nothing we can do about that in the race – we just have to live with it. We will obviously do the best we can and I’m looking forward to seeing how we get on during the night with the tyre compound we’ve chosen to run.”