The Circuito do Estoril in Portugal was the venue for the season finale of the European Le Mans series last weekend. It marked the final high point of an exciting debut season in the ELMS for Giorgio Maggi with Race Performance. The Swiss driver and team-mates Nicolas Leutwiler and Bert Longin lined up in eleventh place in the LMP3 class and worked their way up into P7 during the four-hour race.
You took the opening stint and had gained eight places by the time the driver changeover came around. Were you pleased with the race?
To be quite honest, I’m not really thrilled about seventh place in the LMP3 class. We easily had the potential for a finish in the Top Five at Estoril. A lot of things happened, unfortunately. Conditions were quite tough, as it had rained heavily before the start. The track had already dried out, but there were damp spots all along the racing line and they kept catching me out in the final turn. That stopped me from going past a couple of fellow competitors for quite a time, despite the fact that I was much faster.
Your team-mates also had one or two problems. What happened?
Niki was spun by another car at the beginning of his stint, which cost us a few positions. There was also the matter of an extremely annoying stop-and-go penalty. A light was out for quite a long time on the left at the rear, which didn’t seem to bother anyone, but the race stewards drew our attention to it without any warning shortly after our last pit stop and handed us a penalty.
This was your first race in Estoril. How did you get on with the track?
Looking at it on paper, I thought, “What a Mickey-Mouse circuit!” I got prepared by working on the simulator and soon changed my opinion after posting my first proper laps. The track is a lot of fun and really great too. There are a few blind corners, and the last turn is especially tricky. It’s very long and not easy to find the right line so that you can be well positioned for the exit and quickly jump back on the accelerator.
Your first season in the European Le Mans Series is now over. How do you think it went overall?
The year was fair to middling. We had some good moments, but things kept cropping up. We took delivery of the LIGIER JS P3 at the start of the season and then had to get to grips with the car initially. We also had some teething problems. Overall, there was a great deal more potential in almost every race, which wasn’t reflected in the results because of silly things that kept happening.
One season has just finished, and the next is now about to start. The first race in the Asian Le Mans series kicks off next weekend in China…
Yes, indeed, there’s no let-up now. I’m heading straight to Zhuhai from Portugal after a brief stopover in Switzerland. I have high hopes of the races in Asia. We’re going there to win. My team, Race Performance, are very familiar with the Oreca 03 Judd that we’ll be fielding. It might be a bit slower than the newer models which also contest the Asian Le Mans series, but our engineers and the whole team can compensate for that by calling on their experience and knowledge of setups that we already have on file for every circuit.