RLR MSport has begun evaluating drivers for future LMP3 seasons, and South African racer Andrew Rackstraw was a standout performer during the traditional three days of testing that immediately follow the final round of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve (17-19 October).
Rackstraw started racing at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town at the age of 12, ascending the karting ladder in 2016 and 2017 before graduating to cars in Formula 1600 single-seaters.
He found himself in the thick of the title fight the following season in 2019 but missed rounds by choosing to put his schooling ahead of racing, and, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has successfully dovetailed motorsport with education.
The second-year Marketing student most notably won 11 of 12 races on his way to clinching the 2021 South African Investchem Formula 1600 National Championship.
However, he has invested time in other forms of motor racing, making appearances in the Simola Hillclimb, a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Formula VW single-seaters and ELMS regular Nick Adcock’s very own Ligier JS53 in the 2021 Killarney 9 Hour.
Rackstraw’s undeniable speed and talent startled Adcock and Michael Jensen, who in 2022 raced the #5 Ligier JSP320 alongside Alex Kapadia in the ELMS, and this resulted in an invitation to test another of the RLR MSport’s LMP3 cars at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.
Sharing the track with experienced, high-pedigree full-season drivers, the 21-year old ran faultlessly and raised eyebrows within the paddock by topping Tuesday’s (18 October) times.
The South African set a 1m37.7s – a time that would have been good enough for a top-six start in this year’s ELMS 4 Hours of Portimao – on his new-tyre run with no prior experience of LMP3 machinery or the highly technical Portimao circuit.
Rackstraw reflected on his experience with RLR MSport by saying: “It was my 21st birthday on Monday and I have to say these have been the best days of my life. I was completely blown away by the Ligier JSP320 LMP3’s performance, the nature of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve and RLR MSport’s professionalism.
“We tried lots of different setups and I was pleased to have the opportunity to run fresh tyres, but I really enjoyed the whole experience and I can’t wait to get back in the car, moving into either the European Le Mans Series or Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2024 once I’ve completed my university studies.”
RLR MSport Director of Motorsport Operations, Nick Reynolds, said: “It’s always exciting when you discover new talent and there’s no doubting that Andrew (Rackstraw) has natural ability. To set lap times good enough for a top-six start in the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Portimao in a car you’ve never driven and on a track you’ve never visited is a phenomenal feat, but the entire team is also impressed with the way Andrew carries himself and his work ethic.
“We tried an array of setups and the engineers really enjoyed his feedback on how the car was behaving. In this sort of scenario you often find drivers are completely overwhelmed, terrified of damaging the car, but Andrew was impressive from his very first lap, taking the car right to the edge and showing incredible car control. We wish him all the best with his studies and really hope we have the chance to work with him and nurture his talent further, potentially in the 2024 ELMS or Michelin Le Mans Cup.”