RLR MSport is seeking representative podium results in the 2023 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Le Castellet (14-16 July), having left the opening round of the season at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya disappointed.
In Barcelona, James Dayson, Jack Manchester and Valdemar Eriksen took the #5 Ligier JSP320 LMP3 to sixth after their strategy was severely compromised by an ill-timed Full Course Yellow (FCY), while a starter motor failure on the #15 prototype thwarted Horst Jr Felbermayr, Gael Julien and Mateusz Kaprzyk’s race.
However, the pace of its cars and driver combinations inspired confidence within RLR MSport and, looking to his home race in the South of France, Julien said: “The result in the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was disappointing, as it didn’t do justice to the car’s great pace all week long. The RLR MSport crew deserved much more, but we’ve got plenty of opportunities to show our true pace, including the next race at Circuit Paul Ricard. The track is fast and flowing, and it is my home race, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Poland’s Kaprzyk said: “I can’t wait for the second race of the European Le Mans season. It has been a while since we raced in Barcelona, but the second half of the year will be intense. I like Circuit Paul Ricard, but it’s quite demanding, and that will be especially true because the temperatures in the South of France are always high at this time of year. We tested there recently, focusing not only on race pace and lap times, but also on tyre management in the heat, and I’m happy with how it went. Looking at our pace in Barcelona, I think we can look to battle for podium positions in Le Castellet.”
Eriksen, aged 20 from Denmark, said: “I’m very excited about the forthcoming European Le Mans Series race at Circuit Paul Ricard. We showed podium potential last time out at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and I think we can achieve good results if things play our way. But, all-in-all, I’m just very happy to be back in a racecar after such a long break.”
British racer Manchester added: “Circuit Paul Ricard is one of my favourite tracks on the European Le Mans Series calendar and I cannot wait for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet weekend to get underway. It has been far too long since the last round in Barcelona and I’m really excited to be back with everyone at RLR MSport, including James (Dayson) and Valdemar (Eriksen). I just hope to have a fast and clean run, and build on what was a solid start to the season at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.”
The Ligier European Series, meanwhile, reunites with the ELMS after supporting official testing for the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (4 June).
RLR MSport returned to the one-make category with a Ligier JS P4 prototype for 2022 JS2 R title-winner Haytham Qarajouli of Kuwait and Mexico’s Ian Aguilera, and it is also attempting to defend its JS2 R Teams crown with ‘The Racing Reverend’ Simon Butler and Spanish single-seater graduate Maximus Mayer.
The Bolton, England-based squad achieved an outright podium on its debut in the headlining JS P4 class in the season-opening Barcelona Heat (21-22 April) and was once again on course for outright and class silverware last month at Le Mans.
As a result, expectations are high for the Le Castellet Heat – Round 3 of the 2023 campaign – at Circuit Paul Ricard, especially as further gains were made during a particularly productive in-season test at the French venue.
Qarajouli said: “I’m excited about going back to Circuit Paul Ricard again. It holds great memories as the scene of the first round of my championship-winning 2022 Ligier European Series season in the JS2 R, in which I achieved a double podium. It’ll be a different challenge this time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Ligier JS P4 performs there, as I’ve very much enjoyed racing the car at both Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and Circuit de la Sarthe, in support of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Butler said: “I’m really looking forward to the Ligier European Series Le Castellet Heat. We had a day of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard early last week, and it was very useful for getting reacquainted with the track and improving my comfort with the Ligier JS2 R. I believe I made progress because I am feeling more settled in the car, and I’m looking forward to a great event where I’ll hopefully take another step forward in terms of performance and competitiveness, and be in the group that’s directly behind Max (Mayer).”
Mayer added: “I have some high expectations for the Ligier European Series Le Castellet Heat after a recent test at Circuit Paul Ricard, where we tried instilling more confidence in Simon (Butler). It was successful and we improved our lap times, so we will go into the race weekend with a lot of positivity. We are both really excited with mega feelings about getting the weekend started at what I think is an awesome track because of its long and fast corners.”