Tatiana Calderón made a positive return to endurance racing in last weekend’s opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Barcelona.
Driving for Team Virage alongside regular teammate Ian Rodriguez and last-minute replacement Dennis Andersen, Tatiana finished ninth in the competitive LMP2 Pro/ Am class and 15th overall in the four-hour season opener, earning valuable points.
The weekend started with the two-day Prologue test session, which allowed Tatiana the chance to re-familiarise herself with the Oreca 07-Gibson that she last drove in late 2021, as well as getting to grips with the revised Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track layout that has had the chicane in the final sector removed since her last visit.
Unfortunately, Team Virage hit a setback when its designated bronze-rated driver Rob Hodes suffered a crash during practice on Friday afternoon, suffering two broken ribs. After a major effort to restore the car overnight, the team was able to take part in second practice and qualifying on Saturday, with experienced LMP2 racer Andersen stepping in for Hodes.
Andersen qualified 9th, but the team was given a penalty for an unsafe rejoin to the track and they had to start 21st, behind some LMP3. Denis took the start of the race on Sunday and cleared his mandatory drive time before handing over to Tatiana just after the one-hour mark, with the Colombian staying on board for a double stint before Rodriguez took her place and drove the #19 Oreca to the finish.
After banking two points for finishing ninth in LMP2 Pro/Am, Tatiana and the team will now turn their attention to making further progress up the order for the rest of the six-race season, while wishing the injured Hodes the speediest possible recovery.
Tatiana Calderón: “I think considering what happened earlier in the week we can be happy that we finished the race, while showing good pace and progression. The team did a great job rebuilding the car after Rob’s crash, and I’m happy to see that he is already recovering. It wasn’t easy for Dennis to jump in the car and go straight in qualifying, and we didn’t really know what to expect from the race. We made a new seat on Saturday evening to accommodate Dennis and we had no time to test it. It was a big challenge but I’m quite encouraged by the pace we showed. We know where we need to work for the next round at Le Castellet, which is a few months away, but hopefully we can move up the grid there. I want to take the chance again to thank Team Virage and my sponsors Bichota, Karol G, Terpel, AVL Racetech and Escuderia Telmex for their support, without which I wouldn’t be racing.”
Following the recently-announced cancellation of the Imola round of the ELMS, the next race will take place at Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) in France on July 16th.
Images courtesy of @juledechezsmithenface