Foster optimistic despite feeling the heat in sweltering Spain

A driven Tommy Foster aims to ‘finish the season on a high’ following a chaotic showing at round four of the 2023 Michelin Le Mans Cup Series, writes Tom Howe.

In the intense heat of Motorland Aragon, a promising start to proceedings came to a dramatic halt when Foster’s teammate, Terrence Woodward, was forced to escape from a smoking #26 360 Racing car during qualifying. 

Temperatures surpassing 50 degrees inside the Ligier JS P320 caused the LMP3’s fire extinguisher to go off and brought a visually impactful end to the team’s involvement in the session.

Bereft of the chance to improve on his earlier time, Woodward started what was to be a heavily disrupted race from 15th on the grid but he progressed nicely prior to handing the car over to Foster after his allotted 45 minutes.

An incident with the #29 of MV2S Racing on entry to the pitlane meant the sweltering 21-year-old, from Newquay, took to the track further down the order than anticipated but a productive start to his stint soon brought about a return to the top ten.

A penalty for Woodward’s coming together outside the pits was cancelled by a stewarding team who weren’t so lenient on Foster’s alleged abuse of track limits, with the Cornishman handed a drive-through which ultimately contributed to a disappointing 17th place finish.

“The first few days went really well,” he told Cornwall Sports Media. “The heat was unreal. It was a dry heat of 40 degrees for most of the week, so in the car it was easily above 50. I had done some heat training before the race but my body did struggle to adjust. My main focus was to just remain hydrated and keep a lower body temperature as possible.

“We had great one lap pace as well as our race pace. We had high hopes for qualifying, believing we could easily have got a place in the top five but Terrance got held up by other cars. When he did eventually start a quick lap, a kerb strike set off the in-car fire extinguisher which, disappointingly and annoyingly, ended our session.

“Terrance did well to stay out of the chaos on the first lap and get up into ninth. We were hopeful that he would keep up the progress but he really struggled in the car, with not a lot of grip and the heat impacting him physically. [His penalty] was a stupid decision, hence why it was taken away. I didn’t see it at the time as I was waiting in the pit lane to get in the car. 

“The penalty I got was unfair too. I don’t want to dive deep into it but all I can say is the policing of limits around the track was [both] poor and inconsistent. We were right in the battle as always though, looking like we could have had a top five finish but the penalty meant that I got that opportunity taken away from me.” 

From Aragon, situated three hours west of Barcelona, the teams now travel north-east and onto round five of the series, taking place at Belgium’s iconic Spa-Francorchamps on September 22-23.  

His run of point-scoring finishes in the 2023 Le Mans Cup may have come to an end but Foster remains confident a change in fortunes is on the cards and that the experience obtained by the team in Aragon will stand them in better stead as the season reaches its conclusion. 

“We have all given our thoughts on Aragon and put it behind us,” concluded a philosophical Foster. “Our pace was great as always and we believe we will have a strong setup for the final two races [at Spa and Portimao, in Portugal, on October 22].

“I’m back to work for the next couple of weeks but I’ll be training in the spare time that I have. Plans for 2024 are slowly [coming together] but the focus is still on this year as we want to finish on a high.”

Picture: 2023 Michelin Le Mans Cup / FocusPackMedia – Jan Patrick Wagner