RLR MSport bags valuable points at Imola to stay in the thick of ELMS LMP3 title race

09 July 2024 | adminleveridge

RLR MSport bagged valuable points to remain in the thick of the LMP3 title fight in the 2024 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Imola (5-7 July).

Michael Jensen, Nick Adcock and Gael Julien finished just off the podium and are now second in the LMP3 Teams and Drivers Championships, with a slender two-point deficit to the new leaders at the halfway point of the 2024 season.

Daniel Ali, James Dayson and Bailey Voisin were also on an upward trajectory, but they were derailed by a mid-race collision and ultimately classified seventh at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola.

The #15 Ligier JSP320 of Jensen was swamped as the ELMS field launched towards the first braking zone at Tamburello, the Danish Am tumbling from third to eighth.

 RLR MSport burned its mandatory 110-second stop at the first time of asking and remained in the lower reaches of the top ten, Adcock holding seventh but lapping faster than the sixth-placed #31 Racing Spirit of Lemans at around half time.

South Africa-based Adcock achieved his first aim of staying on the lead lap during another solid stint, but RLR MSport’s prospects took a hit when a mid-race Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was implemented on Julien’s out-lap from the pits.

The caution enabled some teams to take “cheap” stops and put the top three out of reach, so Julien’s only concern was to keep a valuable P4 finish from hard-charging opponents on fresh Michelin tyres in the closing stages.

“Michael got a little bit swamped and lost several places while trying to defend into Turn 1 and, although he got faster as the stint wore on, we were some way back from the LMP3 leaders,” said Adcock. “My stint was pretty good; I was instructed to keep the class-leading car behind me so we stayed on the lead lap, and I achieved that. However, I was a bit trapped between Ultimate and Eurointernational.

“Unfortunately, a Virtual Safety Car came just after we boxed to pass the car to Gael (Julien), which put us way behind the leaders. Gael’s pace was really good, as you would expect. The speed was there to finish on the podium, but fourth is still very respectable.”

Julien said: “I was happy with my first race stint, during which I set the fastest lap in LMP3 while completing many overtakes on my way to fourth. The second stint was more difficult, as the tyres fell away and made traffic management challenging. Unfortunately for us, a Virtual Safety Car that came on my out-lap from the pits put the top three out of reach. We had to settle for a hard-fought fourth place.

“We knew we would struggle at Imola, so scoring as many points as possible was key for our championship. We will learn from this and look forward to improving next time out at Spa.”

While the majority of LMP3 teams started their Bronze drivers, RLR MSport placed Silver-graded Ali in the #5 Ligier.

The objective was to hit the front before the end of the first stint and the young Canadian duly stepped up to the task, surging forward from ninth on the grid to first in a tremendous performance.

However, time and positions were lost when contact from an LMP2 sent the #5 car through the gravel and into the barriers between Turns 4 and 5 a short way into Dayson’s race run.

The damage to the floor and engine cover was severe but not terminal, so Dayson and Voisin continued on to an eventual seventh place, to conclude another frustrating weekend in the ELMS.

“Daniel (Ali) did an amazing job to go from ninth to first before he came in, so our strategy worked well there,” said Dayson. “However, the race was pretty frustrating for me because I got fired off by an LMP2 car ten minutes into my stint. I went through the gravel and into the barriers, and we took on pretty significant damage to the floor and engine cover. We’ve had a pretty bad run of luck, so I’m looking forward to testing at Mugello. We then have to turn our season around.”