Olli Caldwell was back on track for the opening round of the European Le Mans Series this weekend as he got his LMP2 title campaign underway with Inter Europol Competition.
Joining teammates Johnathan Aberdein and Rui Andrade for the 4 Hours of Barcelona, the trio looked to be on the pace and on for a promising result until mechanical woes ended their charge.
Sitting at 2.894mi long in the Catalan countryside near to Barcelona, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya offers up a series of long sweeping turns and following improvements to the track opening up the final chicane, it now offers drivers a high-powered boost through onto the track’s start-finish straight.
Fresh from the pre-season test and their sights firmly on the title fight, Olli and his teammates head into the weekend buoyed by their promising speed.
Fastest in the field
Carrying their pace through to Free Practice on Friday, the #48 Oreca powered machine was 3rd in the timings as the LMP2 field found themselves covered by a mere 7-tenths of a second.
Getting the maximum they could out of their run plan in the final practice session, Olli took the wheel in the middle of the session, putting down some strong lap times before handing over to his teammate. Their hard work saw the team top the time sheets at the end of the session, as Jonathan Aberdein posted a 1:29.950 clearing six tenths on of the rest of the pack.
The hunt begins
Following a frenetic and tricky qualifying session for the squad, Olli and his teammates found themselves starting in P6 with full confidence that they could fight their way forward in the 4 hour long race.
Under overcast but warm conditions on Sunday morning, Olli readied himself for the opening race of their ELMS season. With 2 rounds under his belt in FIA WEC, he felt well prepared for bringing the fight to the field when his turn came around in the key middle stint of the race. Starting honours were taken on by Rui Andrade, who began their charge immediately as the roar of the sportscar field stormed across the start line, leapfrogging their way up to P4 by Turn 1.
However with a safety car for a multi car incident within the opening minutes of the 4 hour race, their initial attack was halted as the marshals cleared the debris and stricken cars.
Back to green flag running after 20 minutes, the #48 came through the sweeping turn 14 and set about weaving along the straight in an attempt to get some heat back in the tyres. Holding off the charge from the Duqueine #30, they felt confident in their pace and set about pulling in the gap to the lead of the race.
Following some strong running in the opening stage of the race, the team completed their first pit stop 43 minutes into the race. Then the green and yellow machine returned to P4 in class and picked its way through traffic, avoiding getting caught up in incidents that were happening up and down the field.
Heartbreak for the #43 squad
With each driver required to complete a minimum of 1 hour in the driving seat, Olli geared himself up for his stint at the turn of the hour. In contention for the lead, Olli readied himself and worked through the strategy from the garage.
Getting off unscathed as they jostled for position with the #30 car, they eventually peeled into the pits where unfortunately it soon became clear there was an issue with the car. Desperately trying to rectify the issue, they sent the car back out on track to further identify what was the issue before returning to the garage for further investigation.
After working hard to try and fix the issue to at least get some extra test running. The issue was considered terminal and their weekend was over, heartbreakingly before Olli could enjoy a single turn of the wheel in the race.
Reflecting on their fortunes, Olli Caldwell said:
“It’s painful to finish our weekend in this way when we’ve had good pace all week and we were in a position to be fighting for the win or at the very least we were on for a podium. Unfortunately mechanical problems happen and that’s part of racing.
We can take plenty of positives forward into the next one so we’ll be working hard to come back stronger and make the most of our pace.”
Following the cancellation of the next scheduled round at Imola, the European Le Mans Series will be back in action in July at Le Castellet. Meanwhile, Olli Caldwell will be back fighting in the FIA World Endurance Championship in just a few short days at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of making his first appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.