Noble overcomes qualifying setback and race penalty to post fifth placed finish

Penicuik driver Colin Noble in action at the Circuit Paul Ricard for Neilsen Racing
Penicuik driver Colin Noble in action at the Circuit Paul Ricard for Neilsen Racing

Penicuik driver Colin Noble reflected on a “good” weekend as he and his Neilsen Racing team-mate Tony Wells opened up their European Le Mans Series campaign with a fifth-placed finish at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France.

It could have been so much better though for the pair had things not conspired against them during qualifying and in the race itself.

After three days preparation in France, qualifying did not go exactly to plan as Noble had to settle for sixth on the grid after being held up in their final lap qualifier by a slower rival.

Noble looked to shake off that setback once the race got underway on Sunday and the Penicuik racer made a promising start getting himself into fourth spot.

However, he was hit with a ten-second penalty at the first pit stop following a track limits infringement.

This was especially unfortunate, according to the team, as it was avoidance in a traffic situation. Noble though had pushed hard enough to gap the cars behind to ensure that he re-joined in fourth position following his stop.

Noble handed over just pass half distance with Wells resuming initially in second position as the stops unfolded. The pressure was on, however, with the number nine of Esteban Garcia close behind and the eventual race winning #17 car.

With 15 minutes of the four-hour race remaining, Wells ran in third but despite his very considerable efforts, had to settle for fifth position at the chequered flag.

After the race, Noble said: “It was quite a tricky race from P6 at the start and we held that initially and then started to pick them off.

“It was tough as we were a little down on top end speed on the straight and pretty quick in sectors one and two due to the setup we had, so this made passing a little tricky in traffic.

“Once in clear air though, we were the quickest car on track and hunting the leaders down.

“The car was great, it’s been a good weekend for us in both ELMS and the Michelin Le Mans Cup.”

The sister #8 car meanwhile saw James run a conservative first stint, maintaining his position throughout the two hours of competition before handing over to Nobu.

The Japanese Rookie - competing for the first time on European soil - put in a good run to the flag, regularly lapping on the pace of his immediate rivals.

Team-mates of Noble and Wells Nobuya Yamanaka and James Littlejohn finished in 14th place.

With a great deal learned and potential aplenty, Noble now gears up for the next round of the European Le Mans Series next month at Monza, Italy.

ELMS team manager Roger Bennett said: “It was our first weekend with the Norma M30 which proved to be very effective in Tony and Colin’s hands.

“Qualifying was compromised by a fellow British driver dawdling - frankly on his in-lap - which is not acceptable.

“This cost Colin a great deal in the first stint as a result, but he drove really well and it was great pitstop work from the team and Tony got in the car and acquitted himself well, holding his own against some quick professional drivers to finish fifth.

“It’s definitely something to build on”.