Noble Scores First Asian Le Mans Series Podium in Japan
Scottish Rising Star Colin Noble scored his first podium finish in the Asian Le Mans Series alongside teammate and fellow 2018 UK LMP3 Champion Tony Wells at the Fuji Speedway on Sunday.
It would be a first start at the previous home of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix since 1986 for Ecurie Ecosse, a race which earned the team a dramatic class win in the 1000km World Sports Car Championship Race.
The pair, sharing the #79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 Nissan was in the mix all weekend but were forced to start from the back of the 20-car field after a technical problem in Qualifying.
On this occasion, a win would be out of reach – but the podium finish marked a big step forward in the international ambitions for the reborn team and their young Scottish star.
Despite every available weather forecast predicting a dry race, rain began to play a part almost from the start, throwing well-practised strategy out of the window in plummeting temperatures and with snow even threatening for a while in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
A strong start from Wells saw the scene set for a strong potential finish and with Noble taking over the wheel for the second half of the race it was a charge for points and a podium.
Assisted by a late-race safety car for another LMP3 rival losing a wheel and getting stranded on track, and a tactical pit stop, Noble gained a lap on the car he was battling for third, giving him a comfortable margin to work with in the final minutes.
He took that battle to the car ahead and brought the #79 car home third, after 133 laps of the 5.4 km circuit. After cold weather races in Shanghai last month and at Fuji, the Asian Le Mans Series has warmer climates ahead with the next round at Buriram in Thailand on 12 January, with the series concluding the following month at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Colin Noble: ”Actually, I’m pretty pleased with that result – coming into the race I thought we would not get to the podium, starting from the back and with the conditions we found ourselves dealing with.
“Our pace though was there all day and when you look back there were a number of factors that actually held us back; Tony was hit by a Ferrari and that cost us time. I don’t think it would have made a difference to our ultimate result but we’re very encouraged with our overall performance. On pace we were amongst the very quickest out there, particularly as we race as a pair with a real Bronze that has to do plenty of heavy lifting, and Tony had to do that when the conditions were at their trickiest.
“We’re learning these tracks for the first time and when you throw a bit of weather into the equation that becomes tougher. All in all though the team will go away from here happy with that.”