RLR MSport rounded out the top ten in LMP3 at the end of the first two races on the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series calendar at Dubai Autodrome (11-12 February) with Andres Latorre, and LMP3 rookies Amir Feyzulin and Bijoy Garg.
Long-run pace was a priority for RLR MSport throughout Friday practice, but the sessions were also the opportunity for LMP3 debutants Garg and Feyzulin to get properly acquainted with the #15 Ligier JSP320 prototype.
However, the team struggled for pace and was chasing setup until it diagnosed a damper issue on Friday (10 February) evening, but it was able to rectify the problem before Qualifying the next morning.
A change to the race weekend format meant the LMP3 and LMP2 fields shared a single 20-minute qualifying session, which was heavily delayed by more than two hours due to extensive barrier repairs, necessitated by a hefty shunt in the GT segment.
The race one grid was set by the fastest times and the race two starting order by the second-fastest laps, and, as per the regulations, Bronze-graded Feyzulin was required to qualify the #15 RLR MSport Ligier, which he took to 13th on both the race one and race two grids.
The Dubai-domiciled driver held station off the start line in the first of two four-hour contests on Saturday (11 February) afternoon but frequently set personal best lap times to keep tabs on the 12th-placed #9 Graff Racing car.
An early Full Course Yellow (FCY) prompted a handful of LMP3 teams to pit early, but RLR MSport chose to stay on-strategy and went as high as ninth in class prior to the first driver-change after 70 minutes, when Latorre was inserted into the #15.
The Managing Director of Latorre & Dutch Coffee maintained 11th position for the duration of a relatively lonely stint, which featured a spin on cold tyres and brakes soon after a second-hour FCY.
The baton was then passed to LMP3 rookie Garg on lap 54, and the the 20-year-old Californian lapped consistently in the 1m57s in full darkness to breach the top ten on the run to the chequered flag.
In race two the following day (Sunday 12 February), Feyzulin initially progressed to 11th but was soon shuffled back down the order and eventually settled into 13th.
Nevertheless, RLR MSport featured inside the top ten after placing Latorre in the hot seat in the first round of LMP3 pit stops, although a Safety Car left Latorre vulnerable to the advancing #4 Nielsen Racing and #11 WTM by Rinaldi Racing cars, and he was 12th after being tagged into a spin by a GT contender at around half-distance.
Soon after, Garg started his second-ever LMP3 race run in 13th but, despite being off the lead lap, he pushed on and RLR MSport took advantage of a Safety Car to conduct a ‘cheap’ fuel-fill, to once again finish on the edge of the top ten.
“Although we didn’t get the results we wanted in the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Dubai, there was still so much learned over the weekend,” said Garg. “After we had issues in practice, we improved the car massively for the races. We tried some strategic gambles in both, which didn’t pay off, but I’m happy with the way I drove and am really looking forward to progressing further in Abu Dhabi.”
Latorre said: “There are a lot of positives to take away from the two races in Dubai. It’s the first time that Bijoy (Garg) and I have raced at Dubai Autodrome, business commitments prevented me from preparing on the simulator, and it’s also my first experience with the team, so I came into the weekend blind and I was a bit off the pace as a result. However, we had fairly clean races and RLR MSport was great, executing all pit stops perfectly and providing a reliable car that took us to the finish.
“For me, I need to feel more comfortable in the car, both in terms of the seating position and the setup because I always struggled to get it turned into the corners. Nevertheless, I’m satisfied with my first steps in LMP3 and I hope we can find a better compromise that will enable me to extract more from the car in Abu Dhabi.”
Feyzulin added: “This was my first race in LMP3 and my first in the Asian Le Mans Series, and I’m really enjoying the whole experience. The teamwork within RLR MSport is great and the whole process is very well organised, so I’m feeling fantastic about what we have achieved so far and I’m very much looking forward to moving on to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the final two races of the 2023 season.”