Caerphilly racer Graham Cole has described 2019 as “disastrous” after a disappointing race programme in France.
Driving the Richwest Engineering BPS7 Prototype Sportscar, Cole was aiming to become the first overseas driver to win the France-based TTE/Free Proto Championship, but his GCCRacing team suffered setbacks from the off.
The first race of the programme was held in Dijon, eastern France.
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In the heat of summer, high track temperatures caused problems for Cole and his team.
Cole said: “We had never raced at Dijon before and while we expected hot summer temperatures we were simply not prepared for that degree of heat.
“As a result our highest finish was sixth and although that was pretty good for a thirty five car grid, we were really hoping for better.”
The next race was held at Nogaro in the south of France. Unfortunately for Cole, his car was shunted off the track by a backmarker during the last lap of the race.
The low front splitter of the car hit the curb, splitting it in two and damaging the car’s suspension.
Cole struggled over the finish line for a fourth-place finish, but the damage meant he was unable to to compete at the Magny Cours race, where he experienced success in 2018.
He said: “Despite setting much more competitive times than at Dijon, we were unable to capitalise on our performance.”
The car was repaired in time for the last weekend of the programme – the 24-hour endurance race in Le Mans.
Cole said: “It was the result there that left us fuming as I felt we were robbed.”
Cole was in third place, closing in on the second and first placed competitors when a number of cars flew off track into the gravel.
This, combined with heavy rain, meant the officials implemented a 37mph speed limit. Cole, abiding by the rules, was overtaken by Yannick Latreille – who Cole claims was exceeding the speed limit – relegating him to fourth place.
Cole said: “My protests to the race directors fell on deaf ears so we were left to fume all the way during the long journey back to Wales.”
But despite a disappointing 2019, Cole is taking plenty of positives into 2020.
He said: “On reflection, it was good to know the car is far more competitive now and capable of podium finishes even when competing against far more expensive £100k-plus Normas and Ligiers.
“We must pass on huge thanks to our Caerphilly supporters Richard, Adele and all the folks at Richest Engineering, as well as Dean and the lads at WestTyres Caerphilly for their invaluable support in 2019.
“Here’s hoping for better fortune in 2020.”