Surprise, surprise! After being away for over ten months, I was able to make my comeback in European Le Mans Series in late Summer. My old colleagues at Algarve Pro Racing were in need of a substitute driver, after one of there regulars had to drive elsewhere. Team boss Stewart Cox invited me to participate in the 4 Hours of Aragón and I definitely couldn’t resist.
Before talking about the race in Spain, I need to thank my employer Prema Racing for being so flexible. In the end, Algarve Pro Racing was one of their direct rivals in the 2022 ELMS season, but as Prema regarded this subbing possibility as a good chance for me to do some extra racing. Don’t forget the World Endurance Championship season is only restarting in September!
I got teamed up with my old friend Tristan Vautier, someone I know from driving for ARC Bratislava in the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans. I really like Tristan – he’s got a great sense of humor and is straightforward in his talking. Next to that Tristan’s got a bunch of experience from racing in IndyCars and IMSA, which makes him an ideal team-mate to discuss set-ups with.
Tristan and I competed in the LMP2 Pro-Am category, as the #20 Algarve Pro Racing car is the one piloted by bronze driver Fred Poordad, a business man who got his racing license later in life and won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in LMP2 earlier this year. Whereas I must compliment Fred for his consistent long run lap times, he is still discovering ways to extract most out of the car in qualifying trim. No worries though – there was a long race ahead and we know how to tackle one.
From P9, Fred, Tristan and I found a way forward which brought us all the way back to P4. It could have been a podium, even, hadn’t I been penalized with a drive through. In fairness: when I do something wrong, I’m the first one to admit. What happened in Aragon made me sigh. As there weren’t video images, one of the marshals deemed one of the cars going wide every lap. I saw who it was – it was the car right in front of me, which made me extra aware of staying withing the track limits.
As Aragon was a night race, said marshal wasn’t able to uncover the starting number of the car in front of me and therefore gave our number 20 as the car crossing limits. It costed us a podium. At least the race director discovered, but only after we already boxed to serve the penalty…