RLR MSport wants to win the 2018 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) LMP3 Teams’ and Drivers’ titles in style by reaching the top step of the podium in the season-ending 4 Hours of Portimao at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve (26-28 October).
A pair of race wins at Circuit Paul Ricard and the Red Bull Ring, solid points finishes at Monza and Silverstone and a podium at Spa has kept RLR MSport at the top end of the LMP3 standings for the duration of the 2018 season.
In fact, the Darwen, Lancashire outfit tightened its grip on the LMP3 Teams’ and Drivers’ crowns in September’s dramatic 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as it emerged from adverse weather conditions in second position, extending its championship lead to 14 points with only the season-ending 4 Hours of Portimao left to run.
However, the threat remains tangible; 360 Racing, United Autosports, Eurointernational and Inter Europol Competition are all mathematically in the race for the title, and RLR MSport can ill afford to lift the throttle and take a conservative approach, even at this late stage.
RLR MSport’s ELMS trio, Job van Uitert, Rob Garofall and John Farano, are determined to win the championship in style, therefore they will be pushing for victory in the Algarve so they can stand on the top step of the Portimao podium as the 2018 LMP3 Champions.
“Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is an awesome place to race,” said van Uitert. “It will be tricky to manage traffic there due to the circuit’s many blind crests and fast corners. That will make the 4 Hours of Portimao even more challenging for the Am drivers in the field, but my teammates John (Farano) and Rob (Garofall) will rise to the task. With regards to the fight for the ELMS Teams’ and Drivers’ championship titles, I don’t like playing the numbers game. You never know what will happen towards the end of races, so I have to give it my all one last time to get the job done.”
Garofall added: “I think we have to approach the 4 Hours of Portimao with the same plan as all the other races. That means we go to Portugal to win! To do that, we will have to get out front and control the pace, before fine-tuning the strategy to maximise our position at the back end of the race if needs be. Of course, the first job is to get to the finish with no issues or penalties. Autodromo Internacional do Algarve a tough track, which is technically difficult in places and very fast in others. It’s also quite narrow in the infield, so it could be fun with the LMP2s coming through.”
The Michelin Le Mans Cup also comes to a head in the Algarve and RLR MSport is certain it can end what has been a relatively understated season with a flourish.
Farano and Van Uitert share the #14 Ligier JSP3, with which they achieved a maiden Le Mans Cup podium at Monza in May, but the #59 entry of Ross Warburton and Alex Kapadia also has the potential to feature prominently after a particularly strong showing at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Kapadia, who surged up from 19th to second in a stunning display at Spa, said: “I am feeling very optimistic going into the last round of the 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. It’s a tough track, which is very technical and has a lot of blind crests and apexes. That said, it is one of my favourites and Ross (Warburton) also goes very well there. In last year’s race I set the fastest lap and got up into the lead before the pitstops. Had we run our strategy differently and placed Ross in the car first we may have had a podium. I’m excited to see what we can achieve this year, given the pace of the RLR MSport car right now.”
The first European Le Mans Series (ELMS) free practice session is scheduled for 11.35 on Friday (26 October), with the Bronze Collective Test later that same day from 16.20.
Saturday (27 October) will begin with ELMS FP2 at 9.25, with LMP3 qualifying at 14.45 and the headlining 4 Hours of Portimao on Sunday (28 October) afternoon from 12.30.
Michelin Le Mans Cup free practice will be held at 13.20 on Friday and 11.10 on Saturday, prior to qualifying at 15.55. The race is set to commence at 9.00 on Sunday.