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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Lea Mauer makes Prototype Winter Series debut at Estoril

The Prototype Winter Series celebrated its very first round at the historic Estoril circuit; although in extremely difficult weather conditions, Lea Mauer - the only female driver on the grid - returned to race cars after over a year and showed good improvements in race 2, gaining crucial experience in her Duqueine LMP3.

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo credits: Hellofoto

The new Prototype Winter Series was launched last weekend at Estoril, in yet another step for the Gedlich-organized championships aimed at giving young talents as well as amateur drivers a platform to prepare for their summer commitments. After the successful GT Winter Series for GT3 and GT4 cars, as well as the Formula Winter Series launched in 2023, prototype teams now have the chance to test and compete with their cars from January to March with dedicated events at iconic circuits such as Estoril, Portimao, Aragon and Barcelona.

The field entered the first weekend with 8 teams, as more entries are expected for the following three rounds. One of the teams joining the grid from the get go is Racing Experience, who lined up its Duqueine LMP3 for the only female driver on the grid, Lea Mauer, paired up with her teammate Charles Delbrassine. The team itself is one of the most successful LMP3 teams in the last few years and lately added to its palmarés a championship title in the Prototype Cup Germany with Gary Hauser and Markus Pommer.

Lea Mauer is not just one of the drivers of the team, but she is also the team manager of Racing Experience, as well as an engineer. Mauer has already contested a few races in LMP3 machinery two years ago, mainly in the Supercar Challenge series where she became GT & Prototype Challenge Class Champion 2022.

Having never raced in karting or in any other race car before her LMP3 outings make it even more impressive, although Mauer's limited experience means that her journey in the sport is very much still at a learning level.

"My first racecar was the LMP3 car, I did no karting, only simulator training with our team", she told us, as she returns to the track over one year after her previous competitions.

Her teammate Charles Delbrassine never raced before and the Estoril weekend represented his first ever start at the wheel of a race car. Alongside the very challenging weather conditions, the Prototype Winter Series opener was no easy task for the Racing Experience duo.

One of the most important features of the Winter Series package remains the significant track time that includes test days, practice, two qualifying sessions and two races.

On Thursday and Friday, Mauer had the chance to get back into the rhythm of a LMP3 prototype - and she made good improvements, measuring herself with some very experienced bronze drivers with significant track mileage in LMP3.

In a wet qualifying, Mauer showed she had the speed to keep up with competitors: "[In] my qualifying session under wet conditions I also did the same lap times than more experienced bronze drivers, so this was for me a very good thing", she explained. She was in fact a tenth away seventh-place overall, the #66 Rinaldi Racing Ligier of Steve Parrow and a little over three tenths from Tom van Rompuy's DKR Engineering Duqueine - two drivers with respectively Le Mans Cup and ELMS experience.

Mauer was behind the wheel for the start of race 1 - but due to the heavy rainfall, the race was eventually cut short. Sandro Holzem cleared Danny Soufi at the start and kept the lead until lap 3, when Soufi, on a flooded track, lost the control of his Konrad-Ligier under braking, spun and collected Holzem's Rinaldi Duqueine. Both cars were heavily damaged but drivers were unhurt.

Kevin Rabin took over the lead - the 16 year old being the only starter in the Nova NO02 class. The race though was red flagged shortly after and not restarted due to the weather conditions. With the previous lap's classification, Holzem was therefore the winner ahead of Rabin, as Soufi was penalized for causing the red flag.

Lea Mauer wrestled the car in such difficult conditions but kept it on track and was classified seventh overall, sixth in class.

"Race 1 was red flagged", Lea said. "Which was a very good decision, because it was getting dangerous on track."

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo credits: Hellofoto

Race 2 turned out to be also a wet one, as the Portuguese weather wasn't kind to the Prototype Winter Series' field for most of the weekend. This time, though, the race could take place and Holzem was supposed to line up in pole position. On the formation lap, though, there was drama for the Rinaldi Racing squad as the crew had to push the #33 Duqueine back to the pitlane with rear suspension issues, likely as a reaction to the accident on the day before.

Konrad Motorsport's Soufi could therefore move into the lead and he held on until the mandatory pit stop. A special handicap system regulated the pit stop times to balance the driver pairings; as solo silver driver, Soufi needed to stop longer than the Daniel Keilwitz and Laurents Hörr duo behind him, but he passed his rivals again on track with a faster pace than his bronze/gold competitors. Soufi took victory ahead of Tom van Rompuy/Hörr and Steve Parrow/Keilwitz in third.

Charles Delbrassine took the start for the #12 Racing Experience Duqueine and focused on improving lap after lap. He succeeded and, by lap 3, he recorded a 2:09 lap, five seconds faster than the previous one. On lap 6 he further improved with a new personal best and brought the car back to the pit lane on lap 9 after a solid stint. Lea Mauer took over and on her first timed lap she had already lowered the benchmark to 2:02.8, which she then improved by over 2 seconds in the following laps.

On lap 15 and 16, Mauer went under the 2 minute mark - and ran consistently with no mistakes until the end of the race despite a tyre issue. She would finish seventh overall once again.

"Race 2 for us was also difficult, because we did not have the same feeling in the car than the race before, which was due to tyres that did not work well", she told us.

Overall it was a difficult but learning first weekend for Mauer and Delbrassine, who are now looking forward to three more race weekends to build on this experience and make more progress.

"I know that experience is only possible with driving and the learning curve is not always a straight line, so for me it is about improvement and hopefully I have the chance to race even more", Mauer said, nevertheless satisfied about the positive steps. "Gary [Hauser], my husband, who won the Prototype Cup Germany last year, acts as a driver coach and when we compare the data I can see that my technique is very good, it is just about the confidence of the aerodynamics." With her technical expertise, in fact, Mauer will certainly analyze and identify the biggest areas of improvements to speed up the progress.

There will now be little time to rest, as the next race meeting is scheduled in a few days, from 20th to 21st January at Portimao, Portugal.

Lea Mauer, Racing Experience Duqueine LMP3, Prototype Winter Series, Estoril
Photo credits: Hellofoto



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