LMP3 Cup
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Race Driver Experience

There was rain, rain and more rain at Portimao for the final round of the Le Mans Cup.

Both Terrence Woodward/Tommy Foster and Mark Richards/Belen Garcia had damp free practice sessions to acclimatise to the conditions before qualifying.

“The car was feeling good. It was my first time here and I was quickest bronze driver in the wet,” said Richards.

“I did the race here last year too, so I knew the circuit,” added Garcia.

For qualifying it was Richards and Woodward in their Ligier JSP320s, with Richards seventh best. “The track was at its best early in the session, after that the conditions worsened and I had a big spin at Turn 2 as it got even wetter. Visibility in the spray was nil too,” said Richards.

Woodward was disappointed to be down in 15th. “It was OK, but I had my best time excluded. It felt a bit second best, a bit average, but I stayed on and the car felt good, as we had a proper set up for both cars having practiced in the wet,” he said.

It was a 9am kick off for the race, which started under the safety car due to the poor weather conditions, before the green flag was finally waved for lap six.

Richards quickly got past Chris Short’s Inter Europol car for sixth, while Woodward held station in 15th, in a crowded midfield.

It was close formation at the front, which saw Richards become part of a four-car train for third place, as Woodward lined up to challenge Ducertin’s Duqueine for 12th after eight laps.

Both drivers gained a place on the next lap too, but the skies were darkening even more.

A full course yellow soon followed, with Richards in a strong fourth and Woodward poised to break into the top 10.

The race was live again after one lap, but it was soon yellow again, with more cars off. By this time Richards had climbed to third and Woodward had shot up to sixth as the pitstop window arrived, with almost everyone coming in after 20 laps completed.

“I started 15th and drove to the conditions at the start. The car was great in the last sector and we carried good speed, so I did most of my passing into Turn One. I had a car spin right in front of me at the Hairpin after the restart, which I managed to avoid.  Over the season we have had some bad luck, but always raced really well. We have had pace all year long, but a lot of if’s, but’s and maybe,” said Woodward.

Garcia had settled in fifth with Foster sixth after the stops, but both moved up when Cool Racing’s leading Ligier finally made their stop.

There was another full course yellow after 27 laps, with Garcia trying a move for third into Turn One on Smal’s CD Sport Ligier as the race went live again.

But Foster had a run on her too, as the 360 drivers exchanged places. But with the rain getting worse, visibility had worsened yet more and after another full course yellow and safety car intervention, the race was finally red flagged after 36 laps.

“It was horrible and I had never raced in the wet before. I got Belen on the straight, but we both had little moments,” said Foster.

“I tried for third through Turns One and two after a restart, but didn’t have enough traction to make it through. Then when Tommy got me I never really saw him coming,” Garcia concluded.

Published by Peter Scherer for 360 Racing, 25th October 2023

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