Olli impresses with best qualifying pace of the season

Olli Caldwell proved his speed and skill against the LMP2 field this weekend, despite a disappointing race result for the #35 car in the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

July 10, 2023

Olli Caldwell proved his speed and skill against the LMP2 field this weekend, despite a disappointing race result for the #35 car in the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is one of the most iconic and revered circuits in the world. Renowned as the ’Temple of Speed’, it’s fast sweeping corners, tricky chicanes and long straights provide a thrilling challenge for all who race there. Having had plenty of experience on the circuit in single-seaters, this would be Olli’s first opportunity to put his familiarity into practice aboard different machinery.

A positive step forward

Taking place under blazing July sunshine, the FIA WEC field took to the track for the first time since the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Buoyed by their progress in the twice around the clock race, the Alpine squad were encouraged for a strong showing in the 5th round of the championship.

Demonstrating good pace from the first turn of a wheel, the pair of Alpine 470 LMP2 machines were running within a second of the fastest time in the opening practice sessions on Friday.
With Olli posting the #35 car’s fastest run across much of free practice running, he was entrusted to take qualifying honours for the 2nd time in the season.

“I’m really looking forward to getting out there. Our pace is looking great so far this weekend, but the field is really tight. It’s all about finding the perfect lap and maximising our potential”

Within a second

In front of record crowds on Saturday afternoon, the LMP2 field readied themselves for a tantalising qualifying session. Waiting for the session to go green, Olli lined up waiting to leave the pits fully focused at the task in hand.

As laps began to be set it was the two Alpine cars that set the initial pace with Olli being the faster of the pair, continually improving as the time ticked down in the session.

Olli continued to improve his times as he hooked it up for some strong pace throughout each sector. Despite not being able to squeeze a final lap in free air, P8 was an impressive showing for Olli who scored the best qualifying of the season ahead of the sister car.

Keeping it clean

As crowds filled the grandstands on Sunday morning, ready for a thrilling 6 hour battle of the premier sports-car championship, Olli and his Alpine teammates prepared themselves for the fight. With Memo Rojas taking the wheel for the opening stint, Olli looked on from the garage as the pack roared over the start line, holding his breath as the field vied for position into the tight first corner.

Coming through Turn 1 unscathed, Memo made his way up from P8 to P5 in the opening lap and set about a tricky balance of attacking and defending the team’s rivals. With the car looking competitive in the opening hour, running as high as P3 the Alpine squad continued their stint plan to pass the reins over to Andre before Olli’s chance to jump in for a triple stint in the middle of the race.

With the pace still looking strong, the #35 car was in good stead whilst battle for position with the pole-sitting Team WRT car and the #22 United Autosport. Back in the pit lane Olli went over the strategy for his stint, when unfortunate placed safety car period threw a curveball to their challenge as it appeared directly within their planned pit stop window. Despite running in 3rd as they eventually peeled into the pits, the other cars who pitted before the safety car would have an advantage. Olli certainly had his work cut out for him as he jumped aboard on lap 77.

Returning to the track in P8, it soon became clear that the pace was not quite where the team had expected as the race reached the halfway point. Olli worked hard to keep the tyres under control, holding his head throughout a number of tight battles with his rivals, even setting the car’s fast lap time in his efforts to make his way back through the pack. Pushing on through a gruelling 2 hour long triple stint, the British driver handed back to teammate Andre for the quarter of the race.

Crossing the line in 8th was a disappointing end for #35 squad, who had proved themselves to be of strong pace in the opening stages of the weekend. Despite their misfortune, luck had favoured the sister car who managed to score the first podium of the season for the Alpine Elf Endurance Team.

"Whilst the race didn’t go our way we can be confident with the steps forward we have made since Le Mans. We unfortunately struggled with our race pace, which was disappointing considering how strong we felt throughout the weekend. We’ll look into the data and try to understand what happened. Congratulations to the team on the podium for the #36 car, it’s a positive boost to the team.”

With just 2 rounds of the championship left, Olli looks ahead to the next event at Fuji Speedway in the shadow of the majestic Mount Fuji on 8–10th September. 

“I’m really looking forward to heading to Fuji, it’ll be my first time racing in Japan and the track looks amazing!”

Olli Caldwell will be back on track in just a few short days as he turns his focus to the 2nd round of the European Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard next weekend.

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Circuit Paul Ricard

02 - 5th May 2024