The championship uses the ACO (Le Mans Organisers) regulation LMP3 cars to provide Prototype racing in the UK. The weekend would consist of two one hour practice sessions, two ten minutes qualifying sessions and two one hour races. There would be split over the two days. She’d be driving a car built by Ligier and run by her family-run TMS team. (Tockwith Motorsports)
Sarah’s team mate was the very experienced Richard Dean. Despite being involved in the launch of the championship, Dean had never driven the car before the weekend so after four laps in practice, Sarah handed the car over to him. After driving for the majority of the session, Richard returned to the pits to give Sarah a chance to get some more track time.
She had only had a small amount of time in the car before the weekend (at Portimao) and it was on different tyres, but as she proved with her debut in the Mighty Minis a few weeks back, she doesn’t need long to get used to a new car. By the end of the session they were seventh but both felt they could find more time in the car.
Qualifying had to be done by Richard as Sarah is a Silver rated driver (In the FIA ratings system) so under the championship rules she had to let Richard Qualify the car. He managed an excellent fifth on the grid. It was then onto race one. Richard would start before handing over to Sarah. Richard got a great start and was briefly up to third before settling back to fighting between fourth and fifth. By the time he bought the car in and Swapped with Sarah, they emerged once again in fourth place. Sarah Pushed hard but in the closing stages her tyres were going off and she found herself under attack from rival Thomas Randle. After defending well for several laps, Sarah made a small mistake, locking her brakes into the hairpin. That was all the invite her rival needed as he took fourth place.
Sarah crossed the line in a strong fifth with her laptimes looking comparable with her rivals ahead so things looked positive for Sunday. The drivers and team discussed tweeks they could make to the set up to make the car even quicker.
Starting from fifth once again, Richard got another great start and had a good battle with the Ecurie Ecosse car. It was then time for Sarah to take over and we’ll let her describe what happened in her stint;
“The Ecurie Ecosse car just pipped us for third coming out the pitlane, I had to dab on the brakes a bit after they dived in front. I stuck behind them a bit because I knew they had a quick driver. I quickly caught up the #2 United Autosports car and the team said over the radio that we were quicker than him, I caught up with him and went down the inside at the chicane then started to pull away from him to make the third place more secure.”
The race actually finished after a red flag when a rival became beached in a gravel trap. This was extra lucky for Sarah who had developed a puncture and only made it to the finish thanks to the red flag stoppage.
A podium on the debut weekend in only the second Uk LMP3 race ever.
Sarah spoke about how hard it was to overtake;
“The big thing for me coming out of this weekend is how much harder these cars are to overtake in compared to the sportscars that I’m used to! And also when you’re behind a car coming into a corner you lose the aero and that has a big effect so it was a big learning curve for me but I’ve really enjoyed it!”
She also spoke on how much she was learning.
it was a really good learning weekend. On Saturday we came out on a big high and we had really good lap-times, we were in the top four or five lap times-wise so we knew the car was capable it was just a case of getting a bit more confidence with the car. I think there is still more in myself in terms of getting the most out of the car and there is still more to come.”
At the moment, this event was just a one off for Sarah but she hopes to continue. She also still has her mighty mini drive which she missed to race this LMP3 car. The next race for these LMP3 cars is at Spa Francochamps on the 10th and 11th June and her next Mini race is at Thruxton on June 3rd and 4th. By Marc Waller