28 November, 2008
Estoril was the setting for the final round of the 2008 European V de V Championship last weekend where Race Team Solutions drivers' Nick Padmore and Jean-Lou Rihon endured a weekend of bad luck and frustration.
Saturday saw the Silverfleet Capital-backed Norma M20F qualify back in 18th after the car ran for only 2 laps, with a discontented Rihon not managing to get any time behind the wheel.
Reigate's Nick Padmore bedded in the tyres for his opening run in qualifying, but coming down the main straight, fast approaching Turn 1 at 160mph, the rear bodywork lifted and flew off the car, taking the rear wing with it. Padmore was forced to slow the car down and return to the pits.
Having managed barely any track time in qualifying the whole team were left playing catch-up so it was decided the best strategy was for Padmore to start the race to move up the field and hand the car over to Rihon to maintain position. The car started the 6 hour race behind the GT Class pole-sitter who Padmore soon saw in his mirrors as he got into the rhythm of his first stint.
After only 15 laps, Padmore had forced his way through the field and was lying 12th after catching and weaving his way through a six-car battle.
An hour into the race and Padmore had the silver Norma showing some truly outstanding pace, putting behind it the problems suffered earlier in the weekend, before disaster struck...
Coming down the start/finish line, flat out at 160mph, the brakes failed going into Turn 1, sending Padmore flying over the gravel and head on into the barrier.
"I hit the brakes and nothing happened," said Padmore. I tried them again and there was still nothing there. The car just flew over the gravel and after that it was just a case of bracing myself for the impact".
Miraculously, Padmore got himself out of the car and back to the pits. The stricken Norma was towed back and the cause of the brake failure became apparent - the rear brake cylinder had leaked, leaving the car without any brake fluid.
For two hours the team worked hard to repair the damage and get the car in a condition to be sent back out. Once ready, it was left to Padmore to run the initial checks, completing 2 laps before handing over to team mate Rihon.
For the remaining 3 hours Rihon stayed in the car, setting his personal best lap for Estoril - over a second quicker than the times he was putting in the previous year - and unveiled a solid performance to bring the no. 34 car home safely with 19th in class.
"It's been a very challenging weekend but this is racing and that's what happens," said a reflective Padmore. Thankfully we managed to get the car rebuilt and get Jean-Lou in the race for the remaining 3 hours."
That's the end of the 2008 season for Nick Padmore as he looks forward to putting this season's bad luck behind him and coming back even stronger in 2009.