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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Lea Mauer builds momentum at Portimao in Prototype Winter Series

Lea Mauer extended her experience and mileage over the second weekend of Prototype Winter Series at Portimao, showing particularly impressive improvements in the second race, where her pace matched those of much more experienced bronze drivers.

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo by Daniel Bürgin / Prototype WS

The second event of the all-new Prototype Winter Series took place in Portimao, Portugal, under slightly better weather conditions after teams and drivers had endured extremely challenging weather at Estoril. Lea Mauer once again was the only female driver on the grid, and would continue to aim for consistent improvements and mileage, as she collected more experience at the wheel of her #12 Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3.

Mauer teamed up again with teammate Charles Delbrassine - who had just completed his first race in race cars one week before - and they could resume their preparation at another highly popular Portuguese venue.

The first practice session was again held on a mainly wet track for the nine teams, but the skies cleared for the rest of the weekend. Lea Mauer and Charles Delbrassine were both new to the track and needed to make the most out of the tricky conditions on Thursday and Friday to gain as much data as possible.

Mauer was especially thrown in at the deep end in qualifying, as she had not completed a single lap in dry conditions before her session: "Due to a FCY I did not have one lap in the dry before the qualifying session", Mauer explained. "So my plan for qualifying was to learn the track and improve lap per lap."

"When qualifying started, I got into a good rhythm, had one lap where the tyres were nearly warm, but a car in front of me in turn 1 lost the brakes and went straight into the wall," she recalled. A red flag was deployed in response, and Mauer had to build back everything from scratch.

"After that, I went out again and the luck was definitely not on my side, as I tried to do another push lap, but suddenly I heard a strange noise in the car, followed by harsh vibrations in the steering wheel - my wheel bearing broke and I had to box", she said.

"So for me not many laps before race 1, and Charles could not start his qualifying either."

While the weekend was off to a challenging start for the Racing Experience duo, the races would provide a good opportunity to close the gaps and collect crucial experience.

The qualifying session was disrupted by the heavy accident for Pedro Perino (InterEuropol) whose car was heavily damaged after going straight into the barriers at turn 1. His previous lap was fast enough for pole position, but the team couldn't fix the car in time for the start of race 1.

The leading duo, Sandro Holzem (Rinaldi Racing) and Danny Soufi (Konrad Motorsport) - both in solo efforts - battled through the first half of the race for the top spot but a safety car interruption before the pit window bunched up the field again. Later in the race, they were both cursed with technical issues and lost positions.

Julien Lemoine and Clément Moreno (ANS Motorsport) made the most out of it and earned their first victory with a clean drive. Second were Chris Short and Wyatt Brichacek (DKR Engineering), ahead of Holzem.

Lea Mauer started the first race of the weekend from eighth place and, within seven laps of racing, her personal best time had improved by 10 seconds as she logged more laps and got in the rhythm. She settled on the 1m46 pace and recorded her fastest lap in 1:46.294. She pitted on lap 14 and handed over to Delbrassine, who also had a very consistent stint, around the 2 minute mark, crossing the line in eighth place.

"The plan for race 1 was the same, doing laps, improving and my theoretical best lap was 1:45, not very fast, but I knew that I could go a lot faster", Lea told us after the race. "But finally, I had some data to check and to compare. I worked a lot in the evening on the data and the video and it turned out well," she continued.

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo by Daniel Bürgin / Prototype WS

In race 2, Wyatt Brichacek started from pole and led the pack for the first half of the race until the pit window opened for the driver change. At the end of the pit cycle, the race was neutralized by a safety car due to an accident for ANS Motorsport's Julien Lemoine.

At the restart, Holzem and Perino managed to get by Chris Short and Steve Parrow - who had lost a big gap after the field was bunched up by the safety car. Holzem eventually took victory ahead of Perino/Sebastian Gravlund and Bernardo Pinheiro/Rodrigo Almeida (Mühlner Motorsport).

Lea Mauer and Charles Delbrassine had another clean race and, having held position throughout the race, they finished eighth. Their performance on Sunday, though, was even more promising as the #12 Racing Experience Duqueine logged great laps throughout the 50 minute contest, with both drivers making great use of the data collected which would translate in great race pace.

"In race 2 I was even faster than some experienced bronze drivers and I did lap times around 1:42, which was a great improvement", told us a satisfied Lea Mauer. "I was even battling with another car in front and I was faster, but unfortunately we were already 2 laps behind, as Charles took it easy at the beginning of the race, as it was only the second weekend for him in the car."

Delbrassine himself had managed to go under the 2 minute mark and set an encouraging 1:51.210 as his new personal best. After Delbrassine pitted on lap 11, Lea Mauer jumped onboard of the #12 Duqueine and was quickly on pace, obliterating her fastest lap from race 1 straight on her outlap. Three laps later she had clocked a 1:43.7 lap, and was at the same time measuring herself with a few cars ahead.

"I would have gone for an overtake, but like that I was just happy that I could go the same pace and even faster than other drivers, without having had a lot of practice and experience", she said. Nevertheless, the experience was of vital importance to hone her racecraft, and proved that the Luxembourg-based driver still has a lot of potential to improve with more tracktime.

"I would be happy to improve more and to show my full potential", she said, "but unfortunately everything depends on sponsorships, so I will try to find a seat and a possibility to step behind the wheel in the future!"

While her participation in the Prototype Winter Series was in fact only secured for the two opening weekends, Mauer will now work to get back behind the wheel for more - well deserved - outings.

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo by Daniel Bürgin / Prototype WS



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