Terrence Woodwardand Tommy Foster managed to secure fifth place on the last lap of the openingLe Mans Cup race at the Catalunya Circuit, where 24 of the 54 lap race wasbehind the safety car.
Woodward hadqualified their 360 Racing Ligier JSP320 on the seventh row of the 42 car grid,with team mate Mark Richards directly behind him.
“I felt a bit of pressure before going out to qualify, but three red flags in a 15 minute session and I only got two flying laps in. Nearly all the incidents were on out laps, so felt very frustrated,” said Woodward.
“I got one lap in as a red flag ended my second fastest lap and I backed off too much going for a third and the flag was out. So even my best was with a yellow flag, ”Richards added.
An incident on the opening lap caused the first safety car intervention, with four cars damaged after a spinner at Turn One had come back across the track.
Richards had got ahead of Woodward as they lay 14th and 15th, “I got baulked into Turn One and my line almost stopped, so Mark was one of the cars that took me around the outside,” added Woodward.
After 16 minutes the race went live again for just three minutes, before one of the lead cars was in the gravel and the safety car came out again.
During the brief period between the cautions, Woodward had managed to retake Richards as they moved to 13th and 14th respectively. But it was another10 minutes before the green flag appeared.
“We just wanted to get up to pace, but we couldn’t do that with all the stoppages,” said Woodward.
Four laps of racing and the safety car appeared for a third time, but Woodward had lost a place to United Autosports Scott Andrews during that time, but with other spitting or retiring, he was 12th with Richards directly behind.
Two more race laps and it was the fourth safety car appearance, which prompted most of the crews to opt for a pitstop, with 22 laps completed.
Woodward had pitted from 10th to hand to Tommy Foster, who despite rejoining 11thunder the safety car, made good progress from the green flag. “At least Ihanded it to Tommy in one piece and he just got out before the safety came around again,” he said.
“We timed out stop perfectly, there was a red light at the end of the pitlane and a few cars ahead, but it went green for me and then red again,” said Foster
He quicklysaw off Team Virage’s Alessandro Bracalente and Frikadeli Racing’s Felipe Fernandez-Laserfrom the green flag, to sit in 10th with 50 minutes of racing left onthe clock.
But only seven minutes passed and the safety came out for the fifth and final time, which after 10 minutes caution became a final race to the flag.
Foster made two more places on the first flying lap, taking MV2S’s Emilien Carde and Haegeli T2’s Brent Verheyen for sixth. “I got them both on consecutive corners, there were so many cars together at the restart, very hectic,” he added
He was still closing on the cars ahead as the time ran out, but managed to snatch fifth place from Cool Racing’s Cedric Oltramare on the very last lap, finishing are markable fifth. “I was about 10 seconds behind him and no chance of catching, but then he spun off, so we were lucky,” he explained.
“We got the best we could out of the car as we hadn’t got a good set up after free practice. But we tweaked it, which was hard without much track time, we were about 95% there though, “Foster concluded.
Time had been lost in the stop for Richards and Belen Garcia Espinar in the second car. Despite Belen recording the fifth fastest lap of the race, they remained in 15thplace having lost a lap.
“I had problems with my radio so didn’t hear the pit or safety car call. I had been following close to Terrence, but got stuck behind a GT car and couldn’t pass as the safety car was out. It got slower and slower and then we had a problem at the stop, so it cost us a lap in the end,” said Richards.
“This weekend proved we have the potential to progress in the Championship, so it’s time to work at our best in the up and coming races,” Belen added.
By Peter Scherer