Coming to the last race of the first full ELMS season, the Cool Racing team was determined to show that it can fight up front. And it did in the first day, during the first practice session setting the overall best lap time, as well as in the Bronze collective test session.
Having found the optimum set-up, the team was able to test new things in the following free practice 2, but it was finally not going in the right direction. After an unsatisfying qualifying session, CLARA37 was 6th LMP2 on the starting grid.
Iradj Alexander: We were a bit unlucky in the race today. Even before the big crash of the start that involved seven cars and Red flagged the race for 50 minutes, Antonin was the victim of a contact with another car that had spun in front of him and damaged the nose of our car. The second start was given under Safety Car and we hopped that it would run two laps, so we stopped for the repairs, but the Safety Car stayed for five laps, which means we ended up in the very back of the field.
Antonin did a great job in fighting back but he was too far down to make it up. Alex took over and after a misunderstanding with an LMP3 there was a contact, both cars went off, and while the P3 was able to get back on track, our car was stucked in the gravel. We had to wait for the marshals to recover the car and we lost another few laps. In addition the front was damaged again and had to be changed for the second time. Nico took over, tried his best to come back in the field and there were additional Safety Cars and Full Course Yellows. In the end, there was no chance to fight up front anymore.
Thus we changed our strategy and put Alex back behind the wheel. He was doing very good, had a great rhythm and we decided to keep him in the car until the end, which gave him additional driving time and practice. In fact he did his longest driving time ever in the car since the beginning of the season.
Antonin Borga: It’s funny, Portimão is the last race of the season, but to me it really doesn’t feel like the end because we will go on in two weeks’ time in China for our third WEC race… We had a good start this weekend, had a fantastic car in the free practice, and then it was much more complicated in qualifying. This race was definitely not the best one of the season. But we do have a great team, and great driver line-up and a great car, and in the end we are 7th in the ELMS championship, and only the second of the teams with a bronze driver. So in the end, it’s really not that bad…
Of course it’s pity to finish on a bad note, but we will go on working hard, as we do since the beginning. As soon as next Tuesday we will be testing here in Portimão with Michelin, and my personal task will be to work on qualifying. In the WEC championship the car is qualified by two drivers and Nico needs me to do better, so I will work hard on that point for the next meetings.
Nicolas Lapierre : We finish very far down today after a complicated race. The bad start, the red flag, the nose changes twice, the safety cars and full course yellows… it was not simple at all. But the good news is that we had a good, fast and reliable car. We end our first ELMS season and we can be proud of what we have achieved in such a little time period. It is very encouraging for next year.
Alexandre Coigny : I am disappointed because the race did not reflect what we have been able to show at the beginning of the weekend. In my first stint today I was not doing so well and I was far from what I had reached in the Bronze collective test, it’s a shame. I progressed so much since the beginning of the season that I might have been a little over optimistic today.
The race was complicated from the start and my contact with a P3 definitely took any chance to do a good result away. So of course, I can’t be happy about it. I would have loved to be in first five teams in the championship. Once you have the taste of podium, pole position, champagne, you just don’t want to stop anymore… On the other end, finishing seventh out of nineteen LMP2 team is not that dramatic… and we did not even score points in Silverstone…
We did a very good rookie season. I learnt a lot and I could show that several time, that’s what I want to remember from our first ELMS seasons.
Patrick Barbier : We just ended our first LMP2 ELMS season and what I want to note is that we have shared a wonderful learning season. We could demonstrate that we can perform well and that we know how to learn, we also showed that we are able to do well. At the beginning of the season, we did not know that we could go so far up. We have a great driver line-up, we have a wonderful technical and mechanical team and they work very well with one another. Of course, we know we still have a lot to learn, but our objectives is to continue our hard work to come closer to the best teams. Everyone has given his time and passion so far and since we did such nice results in the middle of the season, we want more and more of that. We are still learning, and today’s race is a reminder. Just one year ago, we were running the LMP2 for the very first time here in Portimão… so it’s not so that long ago. We will come back stronger next year.
Source. Mapidu Media/Photo. Matthias Schütt