Barry Gates (Team RLR): Mission accomplished!

Overall I’ve come away from my first Le Mans series race at the Hungaroring with a feeling of having achieved the team’s two principal objectives of proving to ourselves that we have reasonable pace and completing the six hour race. Having said that I’m also a little frustrated, as I feel that but for an incident early on in the race we could have had a telling result.

Free practice on Saturday went according to plan, with all three drivers putting in competitive times and getting comfortable with the car round the tight and twisty Hungaroring circuit without any untoward incidents in glorious sunshine with temperatures of around 26 degrees – it felt like the perfect weekend!

Come Sunday and our preparations continued without any hitches, with Warren Hughes putting the car a creditable 8th in class in qualifying despite failing to find a gap in the traffic when the tyres were at their best. I then had a few laps in the warm-up session in preparation to start the race and despite some nervousness about my ability to keep out of trouble on the first two corners, I was thinking ‘bring it on!’

The first two corners went ok and although I dropped a couple of places I’d recovered them by the end of lap two. The car felt good, I’d settled my nerves, and I was all set for my two hours at the wheel, when I made the mistake of overestimating the grip in the tyres (despite air temperature of a blistering 32 degrees I’d started on cold tyres and they need a good 3 laps to heat through – the surface of the tyres heats fairly rapidly giving the impression you have plenty of grip, but untill they’re heated right through they tend to be unpredictable) the result was a spin on turn 2 at the start of lap 3 and the frustration of having to watch the whole field pass before tthe track was clear for me to restart.

The race then settled down and I was making my way through the slower GT cars when the engine started to cut out due to an oil pressure problem, apparently due to the temperature. Unfortunately for me, when it cut out on the apex of the hairpin at turn 1 I was left momentarily stranded and was collected by one of the Ferarri’s I’d just passed. The result was an unscheduled pitstop of over twenty minutes to repair the minor damage and sort the oil pressure problem. So frustrating!

The rest of the race went without major incident with all 3 drivers putting in consistently competitive times and gradually hauling ourselves up to a creditable 8th in class and 18th overall, so I guess we feel it’s the one that got away.

Perhaps the consolation is that the Silverstone 6 hour race is only 3 weeks away, so we don’t have to wait too long to build on what we’ve achieved.

Barry

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