RLR MSport crossed the line fourth in LMP3 in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Le Castellet (4-6 June) with Mike Benham, Alex Kapadia and Malthe Jakobsen.
Benham got a clean start from P9 on the LMP3 grid but ran consistently in eighth place during the opening exchanges, before quickly ducking into the pits for a fuel-fill and fresh tyres in reaction to a timely Full Course Yellow (FCY).
RLR MSport’s rapid response to the neutralisation promoted Benham to seventh, but the British Am went on to pass the #6 Nielsen Racing car for sixth during the latter half of a solid double stint, which concluded at around half-distance.
Thereafter, both Kapadia and Jakobsen pushed on in pursuit of a podium result during the latter half of the 240-minute contest, each picking up places during dogged stints to ultimately finish fourth in class.
“I think we can be happy with fourth place after a difficult weekend,” said Jakobsen. “We struggled with setup from Thursday testing onwards, but we had a little something to work with in the race. Alex (Kapadia) did a great job in his stint, and I’m satisfied with my performance, considering my lap times and how much I caught those ahead of me. It’s a good end to the weekend and, looking ahead to the next round at Monza, I believe we will be able to find a suitable setup.”
Kapadia said: “RLR MSport pulled a blinder with the strategy to get us in the fight for a top result, making good use of Full Course Yellows and Safety Cars. I was really happy with my stint, as I pulled away from Nielsen Racing’s Colin Noble and caught the guys in front of me. I handed the car to Malthe (Jakobsen) who had the task of chasing down a podium finish, and I’m pretty happy to come away from a difficult weekend in fourth place. On the whole, we put in a strong race performance, but there are certainly improvements to be made before the ELMS 4 Hours of Monza.”
In the supporting Michelin Le Mans Cup, Benham and Tommy Foster worked their way up from the lower reaches of the top ten in FP1 to third in the definitive FP2 classification but qualified ninth of the 26 LMP3 runners.
A wayward Benham tipped a rival into a spin and tumbled to 12th as the tightly bunched LMP3 pack negotiated the first sequence of corners, but the British Am regrouped and quickly worked his way back into the top ten, despite carrying front-end damage.
Benham spent the early phase of his stint in the wheeltracks of the #16 Team Virage car, but a Safety Car presented an opportunity to box for new tyres, fuel and repairs to the #15 Ligier JSP320’s nose.
Fifteenth in LMP3 at the restart, Benham was some 21 seconds off the lead, but with a great deal of forward momentum scythed his way up the order into 11th before passing the baton to teammate Foster.
The young Cornish racer pushed hard, setting personal best lap times to hold eighth when the driver-change window closed.
However, rivals faltered and a canny strategic decision to conduct a short splash-and-dash late in the race helped RLR MSport gain further places and critical championship points for a magnificent fourth place.
“It hasn’t been my strongest weekend, so to come away with fourth-place results in both the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup is great,” said Benham. “The LMC race was ludicrously eventful, and I drove quite well to end my stint in seventh, but I don’t feel I did my best in the ELMS and I can’t work out why I was lacking pace, because nothing we did with car setup worked for me. I’ve never been particularly strong at Circuit Paul Ricard, but Monza is more straightforward, and I think we can find a good direction before then.”