WEBB EXTENDS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH PODIUM FINISH FOR SIGNATECH-ALPINE AT PAUL RICARD
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Webb extends championship lead with podium finish for Signatech-Alpine at Paul Ricard
Series: European Endurance Championship
Track: Circuit Paul Ricard, France
Track length: 5.791 km (3.598 mi)
Date: 13-14 September 2014
Qualifying: Pos. 5; Time: 1m48.956s; +1.119s
Main Race: Pos. 2; +5.518s
British racer Oliver Webb claimed a fourth successive podium for Signatech-Alpine at the 4 Hours of Paul Ricard in France to move one step closer to the ELMS championship with one round to go. The young Brit showed strong pace and determination to claim second place, narrowly missing out on the victory, on home soil for the French team.
During the first Free practice session of the weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard, the top six cars ended the session separated by less than 0.9s. At the end of the 90 minute session Webb’s teammate, Nelson Panciatici topped the timesheets as the team worked hard to optimise car set up. A hard-fought qualifying session followed and, despite showing strong pace, the #36 Nissan-powered ORECA-Nissan 03R Signatech Alpine prototype would line up on the third row of the grid, in fifth place for the second race in succession.
A change of strategy by the team saw BRDC driver Webb in the car for the start of the race for the first time. Starting on the hard compound tyres that had been run during the qualifying session, the Knutsford-born driver made a strong start and moved up to fourth as the lights went green. Webb then settled into a rhthym and pushed hard to stay in contention with the podium positions and keep the championship hopes alive for the team. A mixture of consistent pace and well-judged tyre management saw Webb maintain fourth position, and hand over to teammate Panciatici in a strong position for the Frenchman to chase down the leading pack on fresh tyres.
As the race entered the final stages, the blue and orange Signatech-Alpine prototype made one final stop from third place and saw Chatin take over at the wheel. Running on new tyres, the French driver pushed hard and moved into second place and set about closing the gap to the leader, former Formula 1 driver Christian Klein, which had stood at 27 seconds with 30 minutes remaining. As the clock counted down, Chatin pulled ever closer but, despite his best efforts, was unable to catch the #43 NewBlood by Morand Racing prototype. Consistently strong laptimes saw the gap significantly reduced, and he crossed the line less than six seconds behind the leader to secure another podium for the team. The result moves the Signatech-Alpine team 12 points clear at the top of the championship standings
Commenting on the result, Webb explained: ‘Another strong result, and the fourth consecutive podium for Signatech-Alpine. It was great to start the race for the first time, and experience a different challenge in prototype endurance racing, and the strategy worked really well for us. Once again, the whole team did a great job, with Nelson and Paul-Loup putting in great stints, and we were really close to stealing the lead right at the end. It is great to have finished ahead of our main rivals, and we leave here with a strong lead in the championship with one round to go.
‘We head to Estoril for the last round, and we will be pushing for the win. We cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal, and we will be looking to build on the last four races, and take the title in style. After the last round, we know we can do it, and it would be the perfect end to an already great season. I just cannot wait to get back in the car!’
Webb will return to the cockpit of the #36 Signatech Alpine prototype for the European Endurance Championship season finale at Estoril, Portugal, over the weekend 18-19 October. Prior to this, the young Brit will compete in a 24 hour karting challenge with Alpine, at the Bourges circuit near the team’s factory.
For information on Oliver Webb, visit www.oliwebbracing.com or follow him on twitter, www.twitter.com/oliverjameswebb.