Vale’s Kapadia saviours sweet Le Mans success

Alex Kapadia at the wheel of the number 14 Ligier JSP3-Nissan
Alex Kapadia at the wheel of the number 14 Ligier JSP3-Nissan

Alex Kapadia celebrated success in France at the weekend when he stood on the third step of the podium at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the build-up to 85th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Driving for RLR MSport, Kapadia and team-mate Martin Rich were always in contention for honours throughout the 55-minute race on Thursday afternoon once the former had made a strong start.

Taking the wheel of the number 14 Ligier JSP3-Nissan for the opening stint, Kapadia, who competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Porsche two years ago, settled into third position before handing over to Rich in the mandatory driver change at the halfway stage.

Rich, another former Le Mans 24 Hour race competitor, made no mistake to bring the car home third, just nine seconds behind the race-winning Ligier-Nissan of John Falb and Sean Rayhall.

After standing on the podium, Kapadia said: “This was a great result for the team. Everyone worked so hard to make this happen. We had a trouble free run and to stand on the podium here at Le Mans is something I will cherish.”

Following this success, Kapadia had high hopes for the second Road To Le Mans race on Saturday morning, just a couple of hours before the start of the weekend’s big race.

This time it was Rich’s turn to start, and he handed the V8-powered car to Kapadia in a good position as the duo chased another podium finish, but ill-fortune was just a couple of corners away.

Kapadia’s Ligier was tagged from behind by a rival, causing a puncture to one of the rear tyres. Such is the length of the Le Mans track, and with the car travelling slowly to avoid further damage, Kapadia made the decision to pull off the track and into retirement.

He added: “It was a disappointing end to the week. We had the joys of a podium, but then a puncture cost us a result in what was probably the feature race of the year for us.

“The Le Mans track is very long and it wasn’t worth continuing around and causing further issues to the car that would have been unfortunate and also costly.

“I would like to thank everyone at RLR MSport for making this weekend possible. It is such a great feeling to drive at Le Mans and I hope next time I race here I will be back in the full 24 Hours.”

After his on-track activities, Kapadia joined the crew of Radio Le Mans to carry out broadcasting duties for the English language station.

He explained: “Radio Le Mans is such a valuable resource to any British fan visiting the track, I was pleased to be asked to participate in the broadcast and pass on my experience of racing here.”

Tom Onslow-Cole was another Vale racer in action in the Road To Le Mans event, driving a Mercedes AMG in the GT3 class. Sharing duties with Dutch racer Remon Vos, Onslow-Cole just missed out on his own chance to stand on the Le Mans podium, with the Mercedes classified fourth in class in both races.

Twenty-fourth in the opening race, Onslow-Cole and Vos improved to 19th in the second, strong performances on a circuit where GT3 cars have little experience.

Onslow-Cole said: “I enjoyed every minute of racing at Le Mans. Remon had a great time driving at this famous circuit, and Ram Racing did another great job with the car and the team does have some experience of the Circuit de la Sarthe having contested the 24 Hours previously.”

The GT3 class was won by the Oman Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Tom Jackson.