RLR MSport has arrived at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Imola for a day of testing ahead of the second instalment of its three-pronged 2022 season in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), Michelin Le Mans Cup and Ligier European Series (13-15 May).
The Motul-powered team had much to celebrate last month in Le Castellet (15-18 April), having opened the 2022 season with podium finishes in the ELMS, Le Mans Cup and Ligier European Series, in which it also racked up a victory with Haytham Qarajouli.
In the ELMS, a crash prevented RLR MSport’s #15 crew, Horst Junior Felbermayr, Austin McCusker and Valentino Catalano, from demonstrating their potential at Circuit Paul Ricard, where silverware was delivered by the #5 trio of Nick Adcock, Michael Jensen and Alex Kapadia.
Having raced to P3 despite feeling under the weather in the South of France, Jensen is hopeful he and his teammates can repeat or better the feat in the 4 Hours of Imola, saying: “This is my first time at Imola but testing has started well and I’m full of hope that we can challenge for another podium result if we try our best and keep it clean.
“These Italian tracks are beautiful and I’m really looking forward to the race, although the narrow and twisty layout and gravel traps mean we’ll need to be slightly cautious and manage ourselves well to stay out of trouble, keeping an eye on the LMP2s coming from behind.”
Adcock added: “Le Castellet and Imola are very different, as the latter is incredibly unforgiving with a lot of gravel traps that will punish mistakes, so managing traffic and racing cleanly is going to be crucial for a strong result. We had such a good setup at Circuit Paul Ricard but will now have to dial our car into Imola in testing and free practice, because a high-downforce configuration will make it easier to drive in the twisty sectors, while taking a low downforce direction will improve your ability to overtake on the long straight. It’s about finding the fastest and safest way of generating lap time, and we will be working hard to build on the Le Castellet result and be consistent podium visitors.”
RLR MSport also classified on the Michelin Le Mans Cup podium after the Bronze-graded Martin Rich put together what he regards as one of his best ever race weekends, and Tommy Foster deployed class-leading pace at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The British pair will look to build on their Le Castellet performance to reinforce the team’s status as a title contender, taking advantage of pit stop penalties for some of their competitors.
Foster said: “We went into the season targeting podiums, but to get a result in race one is very positive, and, with three cars taking pit stop penalties at Imola, we’re on a strong footing. Finishing fourth on the road in Le Castellet before having the nice little surprise of being promoted to third in the final results puts us right in the title fight from the get-go.
“I myself have never been to Imola before, but my simulator training has shown it to be an intense track just because of the sheer number of corners and the lack of long straights, which provide us drivers with some respite each lap. I think it’ll be fun because I quite like shorter laps – maybe that’s because of my grounding on British circuits.”
In the Ligier European Series, Qarajouli set a high bar by putting on a dominant display in Le Castellet, and karting graduate Horst Felix Felbermayr accompanied him onto the podium in an extraordinary car racing debut.
However, the pre-season objectives remain unchanged and a pragmatic Felbermayr said: “I came into the 2022 season wishing to finish in the top five in the championship and I don’t have any new goals after Le Castellet. My objective is to just learn race-by-race and keep improving.
“Car racing is really different to karting, where everything goes much faster and you have a lot more to do. I rely on my father (Horst Junior Felbermayr) for guidance and I’m really happy that he’s always there to tell me what I could do better. This is useful at new, unfamiliar circuits like Imola, which is really technical and old-school. However, I was always very fast on those kind of tracks in karting.”