Tommy Foster’s dream of competing in the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans has been ‘fuelled’ by his involvement in a spectacular week of action at the Circuit de la Sarthe, writes Tom Howe of Cornwall Sports Media.
The 21-year-old, hailing from Newquay, helped 360 Racing secure a nine-point haul from a high profile Michelin Le Mans Cup double-header raced in support of the main event’s centennial celebrations.
Some 58 cars took to the grid for the eighth edition of the endurance, affectionately known as the Road to Le Mans, featuring an all-star driver cast that included former World Champions Valentino Rossi and Yvan Muller as well as 24 Hour winners Guy Smith and Jan Magnussen.
Foster, who shares 360’s Ligier JS P320 with teammate Terrence Woodward, steered the #26 car out of some challenging situations to record respective ninth and sixth place finishes that keep the Silverstone-based team inside the championship’s top six overall.
“The whole week was so fun to be a part of and has fuelled my passion even more to get into the 24 hour race,” Foster told Cornwall Sports Media.
“Practice was difficult as there were so many red flags and slow zones that I never got a fully clean lap under my belt before qualifying but the car felt decent all the same.
“Qualifying itself was similar though meaning Terrence and I only managed 15th and then 14th for the two races so we had a lot of work to do in both. Race one was good, we had really good pace in the car but only managed to get up to ninth before the race was neutralised by a safety car.
“The second was a lot cleaner. I managed to get up to sixth whilst matching the leaders’ pace. They were just too far ahead for me to catch.”
The series sees FIA Bronze licence ranked amateur drivers share Le Mans Prototype vehicles with professional Gold teammates which, by its very nature, can often prove finding a particular balance rather problematic.
However, Gold licence holder Foster and the Bronze ranked Woodward have seemingly struck an instant accord which, thanks in part to the Cornishman’s driver training skills, progresses with each gear change.
“Myself and Terrence are getting on really well together and have already planned a golf day back in Newquay,” revealed Foster. “In fact, the whole  team are great. We work really well together. I have managed to bring my race engineer over from the last few years, too. We have a great bond going between us all.
“We have the pace and the car to be racing at the front. Our main goal now is to improve Terrence’s qualifying laps to put us in a better position for the race and make our lives a little easier. Once we improve that, I believe we’ll be a strong force.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, often regarded as the world’s foremost motorsport event, is the pinnacle of endurance racing and has been a target of Foster’s for some time.
The Le Mans Cup, in which Foster is racing for a third year, has in many cases been a stepping stone on to bigger things, with the aforementioned Rossi including the 2023 Road to Le Mans in preparation for a 24 Hour debut next time around.
His aspirations are clear but, when asked to compare the visit to northwestern France against the other five stops on the Cup’s calendar, Foster replied: “This was certainly a bigger event and the impact of it was definitely felt. There were fans everywhere and it was all a little crazy. Walking through the public paddock in my race gear wasn’t my best idea.
“I was given a few tips from a friend that I met who was racing in the 24 hour race and I did remind myself of them during race week. At Le Mans experience is key, so that helped point me in the right direction.”
A slight pause was followed by: “Safe to say I was pretty jealous watching the main event.” Who knows? Maybe he won’t have to wait too much longer.