27 April, 2009
French V de V duo, Britain's Nick Padmore and Belgium's Jean-Lou Rihon, took their 2009 campaign to Paul Ricard for the second round of the championship at the weekend, finishing the 4 hour race in a superb 7th place.
Saturday evening saw the first phase of the meeting on the French circuit with qualifying at 5.20pm where the Norma UK-prepared Norma M20F encountered teething problems but went 4th fastest on it's first run. As the track temperature came up, the field started putting in quicker laps, forcing the number 34 car down to 10th.
With time running out it was Padmore who managed to find an extra four tenths of a second on the their last lap to complete row 4 with 8th on the grid out of a 31-car field - only 1 second off pole position.
It was left to Rihon to commence the 4 hour race who was running in a strong 9th position before dropping to 10th moments before the safety car was deployed. The Belgian took advantage of the situation and made an intelligent tactical decision to bring the car in for a refuel.
After 1hr 50min, Rihon handed the reigns over to Padmore who was down in 13th position but fighting hard. With less than 50 minutes to go the safety car came out again and Reigate's Padmore echoed his team mates earlier decision and pitted to get the car refuelled to the finish, albeit 15 minutes earlier than their strategy had planned.
It proved to be the right move and Padmore put in a series of flying laps to push their position to 7th, and putting pressure on the car in 6th before time ran out, taking a well deserved P7 for the Norma UK squad.
"What a race and circuit!", stated a satisfied Padmore. Jean-Lou made a great start and decided to come in at the perfect moment under the first safety car. He handed over to me a car in good health which enabled me to get stuck in to my 2hr 10min stint.
"The car was very well balanced all the way through my stint so I was able to to just keep pushing and bring the car home in P7. P6 was in our sights but maybe next time!
"The team have done an amazing job to sort out the engine after Jarama last month so a big thank you must go to them."
Padmore's next confirmed race will take place at Brands Hatch for the Historic Masters Festival on the 22nd - 24th May. The meeting will see him team up with his father Kieth in their 1963 Mini Cooper, and will also compete with former VW Fun Cup team mate Ian Bankhurst in his TVR Grantura.