RLR MSport is quietly confident in its ability to challenge for the LMP2 Am Trophy on its Asian Le Mans Series debut at the Shanghai International Circuit (22-24 November).
The #59 RLR MSport ORECA 05 Nissan will be pitted against four Ligier JSP2s in the fight for the Am Trophy and a coveted entry to the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2020.
Neither Farano, Maini nor Higgins have experience of old-generation LMP2 cars and the Shanghai International Circuit is unchartered territory, but there’s a belief within the team that it has a package capable of scaling the top step of the podium from the outset of the season in the curtain-raising 4 Hours of Shanghai.
“I’ve never been to Shanghai before and I haven’t spent any time in the simulator, but this being a Formula 1 circuit, I know where the track goes,” said Maini. “There will be a lot of learning to do on my side and the track walks are going to be useful – they are always effective for getting you in the right frame of mind – but there will be plenty of time in free practice to acclimatise to the ORECA 05 Nissan.
“I’m coming off the back of the Macau Grand Prix, and the Circuito da Guia street track is far scarier and less forgiving than the Shanghai International Circuit – there’s a lot of room for error while experimenting with braking points and racing lines. The strength of the ORECA package should put us in the driving seat and give us a good shot in Shanghai. John (Farano) has come a long way this year and, even though he doesn’t know the circuit, he will learn quickly. I’m yet to test with Andy (Higgins), but I’m quite confident he will be strong, and I expect RLR MSport to be early favourites for the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Am Trophy.”
Higgins added: “The Shanghai International Circuit looks to be a mix of long straights and technically challenging sectors, and I’m expecting it to be a top-class facility as the home of the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix. I have a lot to learn in a relatively short space of time, but it should be pretty interesting and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how we stack up against the other LMP2 Am Trophy entries.
“With RLR MSport behind us and a car of the ORECA 05 Nissan’s pedigree, we have a good package. However, I’m not setting any specific targets. The main objective is to get my head around the car, track and series and to maximise the mileage by executing a clean, trouble-free weekend that will serve as a steppingstone to a successful Asian Le Mans Series campaign.”
The first Asian Le Mans Series free practice session will be held from 15:20 on Friday (22 November), with FP2 at 11:30 and LMP2 Qualifying at 16:25 on Saturday (23 November) and the 4 Hours of Shanghai at 9:45 on Sunday (24 November).