Team Virage headed off to Magny-Cours to compete the penultimate round of the Ultimate Cup Series on the former Formula 1 French Grand Prix track. The changing weather forecast promised some exciting racing conditions.
On the #94, regular drivers Julian Wagg and Philippe Valenza were joined by young Polish driver Mateusz Kaprzyk, who competed with the team on the other cars since Slovakiaring. For the #95, Welsh GT driver Rory Collingbourne joined Philippe Cimadomo.
Not having a lot of experience with driving in the rain and dark, the young Virage drivers in car 94 took the opportunity to use the free practices as a way to get to know the track and the changing conditions, ending up in 8th place. Meanwhile the 21 years old Rory Collingbourne, who got behind the wheel of an LMP3 for the first time ever in the morning, showed great promises by setting the 4th fastest lap time. Both cars got a similar performance in qualifying, Cimadomo/Collingbourne ending up in P5, and Valenza/Wagg/Kaprzyk finishing on the 4th row.
It was up to Kaprzyk in the #94 and Collingbourne in #95 to take the start of the race, done in wet conditions. The Welshman was up in the fight from the start, with Kaprzyk following close behind. Showing some very good overtakings, Collingbourne climbed up to P4.
As the dark was kicking in, the #95 came in for the first driver change. Philippe Cimadomo returned on track in fifth position, just in front of the #94. On a long stint, Kaprzyk did a good job and handed over the car to the American Julian Wagg in P4.
At mid-race, Collingbourne got into the car again. The conditions started to get tricky, as the cars were running in slicks and the rain was still threatening Magny-Cours, lightly showering some corners. This did not stop Collingbourne from pushing the car to the limits, driving the #95 up to the 2nd position, with Wagg right behind him. Unfortunately, a contact with another car forced Collingbourne to pit in order to change his front block. He returned on track right behind Wagg, currently in 3rd place.
With only one hour of driving left, the rain returned causing a switch to wet tyres. For the final stint Valenza took over the #94 car, while Cimadomo returned in the #95. Both drivers have been fighting for the 4th position, with eventually Philippe (Valenza) taking over on the other Philippe (Cimadomo) with a few laps to go. Both drivers showed their qualities in this rainy night sting, running in the laptimes of the leader, and ending up the race in 4th place and 5th place.
While Valenza consolidated his 2nd position in the championship, Cimadomo scored his best ever result in Ultimate Cup Series.
The last round of the season will take place in two weeks, on the current Formula 1 French Grand Prix in Le Castellet.
“Having arranged a last minute deal with Team Virage late Thursday afternoon I drove through the night and arrived at Magny -Cours at 8am the following morning ready for testing in a car/circuit and team that I had not seen or met before. Having not raced since last year and with no night time racing experience I was pleased to find myself and new team mate Phillipe on the pace ! FP1 P4 – FP2 P6, qualifying P5
I quickly felt at home behind the wheel and really enjoyed being part of Team Virage. We managed to be in top 5 straight ahead. all in all I had a great weekend and would like to thank Lucy, Team Virage for the opportunity and my team mate Phillipe for being so welcoming.”
Rory Collingbourne, driver car #95
“The Magny Cours week end was very exciting from beginning to end.
Starting Thursday by the free practice on rain tires, I was violently hit in my first lap by the car of the Inter Europol team in distress just before the last chicane. Back on the track, I easily found a good pace that I kept all weekend.
Friday I was joined by Rory Collingbourne who was going to be my new teammate for the rest of the weekend.
He had never raced on this track or on a P3 but turned out to be in the spot immediately by signing very good times, which allowed us to leave P5 on the grid.
As expected the race took place under the rain and it was exactly what I expected: the rain and the night !
In these difficult conditions we had all our chances.
We finish the race in the same place, but it was a very instructive and unforgettable weekend!”
Philippe Cimadomo, driver car #95
“Solid weekend overall. Even though we made a few mistakes here and there, it made for a good learning experience. The team did a great job as always. I’m confident moving on into Le Castellet”
Julian Wagg, driver car #94
“Very hard weekend for us, but finally we did it P4!”
Mateusz Kaprzyk, driver car #94
“We went to magny-Cours knowing that it was going to be a challenging Week end and so it was!
Our Race pace was very good but in racing that’s not everything you need. We are ready for the next race… rivals can be scared!”
Philippe Valenza, driver car #94