LMP3 Cup
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It proved to be another busy weekend for the 360 Racing pairings of Terrence Woodward/Tommy Foster and Mark Richards/Belen Garcia, as the Le Mans Cup visited the Motorland Aragon Circuit.

After qualifying Richards had secured an outstanding third place in his Ligier JSP320 for the following days race grid, only 0.420 secs off pole position.

“I was really chuffed with that, it had taken a while to get the car into that perfect window during the other sessions, but I was on new tyres and there was even a yellow flag on my best lap. I reckon I could have gone 0.5 second quicker too,” he said.

Woodward had a more difficult session and came away 17th, having had a technical issue with the car which shortened his qualifying run.

At the start of the race it was an all too familiar story with cars spinning at the first corner, bringing out the safety car before even a lap was completed.

Richards had avoided the trouble and was running second behind United Autosports Josh Caygill, with Woodward having made eight places, to complete the opening lap ninth, having stayed on a tight line to avoid the incident.

“I went for the centre at the start, but the car behind got clipped,” Richards added.

It was 10 minutes before the race went live again, with Caygill sprinting clear, with Richards fending off Cool Racing’s Chila and Team Virage’s Gerbi to retain second, Woodward having lost a couple of places.

“I was about a second off Caygill every lap, but I was quicker than Chila in some places and vice versa. He got close on one occasion but then it was comfortable,” Richards explained.

Richards successfully defended his place, but only a couple of laps later the safety car was in action again, coinciding with the pitstop window, which saw a number of cars head into the pitlane, some at very short notice.

Richards stayed out for his maximum time, but Woodward was caught up with some contact and had gone for an early stop. He was initially given a drive through penalty, which was later rescinded.

“I was getting ready to takeover, but Terrence was hit badly by another car and got a puncture then spun again. He was planning to staying out for another lap to maximise my fuel load, but had to come in.  Fortunately there was no visible damage on the car, just tyre marks,” Foster explained.

The lead car had a problem restarting after the stop, but once the driver changes were complete, Garcia had taken over from Richards and battled her way back to sixth, while Foster just inside the top 10 in the Woodward car.

Both drivers continued to make rapid progress, with Garcia fourth after 27 laps, but being caught by Matt Bell in the Nielsen Duqueine, the only non Ligier in the LMP3 Class.

With 42 minutes still on the clock, Garcia was into the podium places, but still couldn’t shake-off Bell. They ran side by side through a number of corners, before Bell made it through at the Corkscrew, while Foster’s advance took him to eighth.

“I made some early places and then it was like stalemate as we were at a similar pace. I made one mistake and let Noble by, then the safety car came out again,” Foster added.

After 32 laps under caution, and with 23 minutes left  the green flag waved and Garcia was now chasing Oltramare for third, after he had lost out to Bell, but Colin Noble was closing on them both.

Nine laps from the flag Noble made it through, leaving Garcia and Richards to take fifth at the flag, but Foster’s charge having taken him to seventh by lap 40 was suddenly dashed.

A track limit penalty had been awarded and instead of challenging for a top six place, Foster had to serve a drive through penalty, dropping him to 17th at the flag. “I wasn’t aware I had exceeded the limits that much and saw others that did far more, a very disappointing end though,” he concluded.

Published by Peter Scherer for 360 Racing, 30th August 2023

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