24 November, 2009
Nick Padmore and Jean-Lou Rihon were back in action this weekend at Estoril, Portugal for the final round of the French V de V Championship. The duo mastered wet conditions, after starting towards the back of the thirty-car grid, to climb up the field, narrowly missing out on a podium finish to complete the 6hr race in a respectable 4th position.
A disastrous qualifying session, hindered by constantly changing weather conditions, saw Reigate's Padmore get up to 7th on a damp track with slick tyres before he was forced to pit when the drizzle set in. Belgian Rihon was then sent out but the asphalt dried during his run and the Norma UK concern's entry was knocked down to 21st.
After more rain overnight, Padmore started Sunday's race with a 2hr stint but delivered blistering pace from the outset as he made his way up to P8 by the end of the first lap, and soon after was leading before handing over to Rihon.
Rihon rejoined in P7 and quickly moved into 5th when the unpredictable weather soaked the track, leaving officials little choice but to deploy the safety car just as he was scheduled to pit. Strategically deciding to keep the Belgian out, still on slicks, Rihon held it together and eventually got the back to the pits where Padmore jumped back in for the final two hours.
Padmore was released back into the race still in P5 and grabbed 3rd but unfortunately ran out of fuel with only five minutes on the clock remaining, requiring a further pit stop. However the damage was minimal and the Norma M20F took the chequered flag in a hard earned and well deserved 4th place.
Padmore added after the gruelling endurance, What a race! I knew from where we started I had a mountain to climb but also kept in my mind that it was a long race and a strong result was possible. The first few laps were very tricky as most of the track was still very greasy from the overnight rain although I feel I made the most of it while everyone seemed to be very cautious in the opening stages.
"Jean-Lou drove very consistently and kept his cool throughout the down pour during his stint. We almost had that last podium spot but that's the way it goes and I think we should be delighted with what we have achieved this weekend.
"Finally, I must add a big thank you to Jean-Lou (Rihon) and every single member of Norma UK. This season has had its ups and downs but we all kept our heads together when things didn't go our way and have achieved great results that wouldn't have been possible without our teamwork - thank you!"
Nick Padmore will release his plans for the 2010 racing season before the year is out.