Olli Caldwell signed off his 2023 rookie LMP2 campaign this weekend in Bahrain as the World Endurance Championship reached it’s season finale. At an event that marked the end of an era for the LMP2 category, Olli and his Alpine Elf Endurance teammates battled to the very end in what was a true testament to their tenacity and teamwork throughout the season.
Following a two-month break in the calendar, the FIA World Endurance Championship was back in action as they moved from the monsoon soaked Fuji Speedway to the desert heat of the Bahrain International Circuit. Located in the middle of sand dunes, the 5.4km track features 15 tough corners stitched together by long straights. Avoiding the punishing heat of the day, the race takes place into the night under floodlights providing an exciting spectacle for both fans and drivers.
Having raced at the circuit in junior formula and even having the rare advantage of Formula 1 test experience, Olli shared his track insights with his fellow teammates as they planned their attack ahead of the weekend.
Determined and driven
Enduring a long season, their race-worn chassis that had earned a Top-10 finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans battled on in a form that matched the determined attitude of the team.
Olli opened his weekend with some strong laps in free practice before handing over to Andre Negrão for qualifying honours on Friday afternoon.
Despite not quite having the pace to battle in qualifying, with nothing to lose from P11 in class and the eight-hour format providing more chances to the squad, Olli aimed to seize every opportunity while relying on the technical team’s skills for each advantage.
The closing of a chapter in endurance racing for both LMP2 and GTE racing, the British racer was looking forward to seeing the era out with the French team.
“The race will be a tough battle for us, but I am confident we will make the most out of it. The luck hasn’t been on our side this season, but I’m proud to have been a part of this team and we’ll look to finish strong” Olli commented
Teamwork till the end
Bright on Saturday afternoon, the sun beat down on the ribbon of race track carved into the Bahraini landscape. With team mate Andre behind the wheel, Olli watched on from the garage as the track went green for the final start of the 2023 season.
Escaping the drama that sent cars spinning after contact from the Vanwall, the #35 Alpine A470 managed to climb 6 places to P5 in class by the end of the first lap, with this strong start their qualifying woes were long forgotten as they worked to settle into the rhythm and make steady progress throughout the 8 hour race. Pitting from P4 on the road, Memo Rojas jumped aboard to mark the first of many driver swaps in the day-to-night race, before handing over to Olli on Lap 62.
Taking charge as the sun began to set, the Sakhir-based circuit was glowing under an orange hue as Olli was tasked with saving fuel in his opening stint to help the squad stretch out their fuelling strategy and gain ground on their competitors. Battling with the worn tyres, Olli raced into the dusk and ensured they were still in a good position once he pulled into the pits to hand driving duties back to teammate Memo Rojas just 22 laps later.
With the team opting to run single stints before swapping drivers, they were on an alternate strategy to that they had run for the majority of the season with Olli and Memo shared driving duties for the lion’s share of the race. Whilst both continued into the race maintaining consistent pace, Olli managed to grapple the car to squeeze an extra lap into each of his stints.
As the race reach the sixth hour stage - race distance for many of the other races in the season - the #35 found themselves bedded into the race and pushed on in earnest to reach the chequered flag.
With very few track excursions and only 2 full course yellow periods making an appearance, the race had afforded Olli and his teammates little in the way of luck to help them make up ground from the back of the pack. However as resolute as ever, the young British driver and his team rallied together to enjoy their final race in LMP2 machinery.
With Olli sharing the final quarter of the race with Andre Negrão, the team brought home the A470 LMP2 machine for the last time in 10th position in class, signing off Olli’s maiden season in FIA World Endurance Championship.
Reflective upon his time with the team, Olli credited the squad who he’d worked with:
"I'd like to say a big thank you to the whole Alpine family and team for welcoming me into their Endurance programme. It was great to be alongside such experienced drivers in my first full season in the World Endurance Championship and it was a great experience to finish at Le Mans. I've learned a lot, but I still have much more to learn. Whilst the luck was always on our side, it’s been a good first year so thank you to all involved."
Having showcased impressive resolve and tenacity throughout this new stage of his career, Olli Caldwell looks ahead to the future with renewed vigour and enthusiasm to progress further in 2024.