RLR MSport finished the 2020 European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza (9-11 October) out of position in ninth, despite a valiant effort by James Dayson, Gustas Grinbergas and Malthe Jakobsen to recover from a first-lap spin.
The Motul-powered team showed its hand early in free practice and then, in qualifying, Jakobsen was pipped to pole by just 0.261s.
However, on Sunday morning, competitors were greeted by significantly cooler temperatures and a damp track following overnight rain.
Dayson took the RLR MSport-prepared Ligier away from second on the LMP3 grid and was an unfortunate casualty of a chaotic opening lap, losing control on the moist track and beaching the car on the outside of Curva Grande.
Stranded in a dangerous position, the Safety Car was scrambled, and while Monza’s marshals were quick to get the #15 Ligier JSP320 moving, Dayson was one lap down in 11th at the resumption of green flag racing.
Frustratingly, a drive-through penalty for overtaking during the Safety Car cost more valuable time, and RLR MSport’s drivers were somewhat shackled by excessive understeer, a consequence of a damaged front splitter and dive planes.
Nevertheless, Dayson lapped consistently in the 1m48s, among the quickest Bronze drivers in the class, and worked his way back up into ninth position over the course of a solid two-hour recovery drive.
Further gains were made by Grinbergas, who was installed at around half-distance, the Lithuanian teenager doing very well to reel in and pass the #7 Nielsen Racing car for eighth.
But there was very little more he or teammate Jakobsen could do to overturn their two-lap deficit to the lead LMP3 pack, and a late splash-and-dash ultimately resigned an underwhelmed RLR MSport to ninth in the final classification.
“I think we’re all disappointed things didn’t go our way, but we’re satisfied we had what it takes to achieve a podium,” said Jakobsen. “Qualifying went very well and I’m really happy with my performance. Like the eventual race winners, we started on slick tyres while those around us opted for wets, and that was the right decision from a strategic point of view. There wasn’t much we could do to recover with the damage to the car, but we had the speed within us to fight for a podium at Monza and that gives us hope for the final round of the season in Portimao.”
Grinbergas said: “We knew we had the pace to fight for the win and seeing how the race panned out confirmed we would have been way up there. The front-end was damaged in the lap-one spin and excessive understeer made the car difficult to drive, so we couldn’t do much more than simply run around picking up the scraps. If we disregard the end-result, we had great pace, we all gelled really well and RLR MSport’s strategy was on-point. The team couldn’t have done anything better and that bodes well for them.”