Jerseyman Jack Butel has claimed his first podium in the Henderson Insurance UK LMP3 Cup at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Butel and new teammate Scott Mansell claimed third in the opening encounter of the weekend before repeating the result in the second race a day later in the Speedworks Motorsport Ligier JS P3 LMP3 machine.
After showcasing the striking Ligier sports car at the Jersey International Festival of Motoring, Jack Butel hotfooted his way across the water to Spa-Francorchamps to drive the famous Belgian Formula One circuit. The St Saviour resident came off the back of two solid finishes at Brands Hatch last month and was eager to progress and claim silverware in the prototype series. The 21-year-old had never driven the circuit before in his racing career and with a new driving teammate in the form of Scott Mansell to learn from and work with. This meant the Jerseyman had a steep learning curve – even steeper than the famous Eau Rouge corner.
Friday was Jack’s first taste of the challenging 4.35-mile layout and rain-soaked tarmac provided a slippery challenge for the Jersey young-gun. Butel and Mansell were on the pace from the off, fighting at the top of the timesheets. The practice sessions allowed the new Speedworks Motorsport partnership to flourish and gel before racing began in earnest a day later.
Scorching sunshine descended on the Ardennes region for the racing weekend with the Speedworks Ligier lining-up on the front row of the grid. The gentleman driver starts the one hour-long race before the lead driver takes over in the second stint to complete the race. A good start from Mansell allowed the team to fight at the front from the off. Contact with another driver a third of the way into the race put the steering out for the English driver. With the race distance too short to make major repairs, Jack took over at the pit stop and like Mansell had to nurse the car yet still fight for on track supremacy. Wrestling the five-litre V8 weapon around the fast and flowing circuit, Jack crossed the line as the clock hit zero bringing home the French-machine in third overall.
The second race on the Sunday was to be a carbon copy of the previous day with Mansell once again making a lightening start to put Butel and himself into the racing mix. Coming into the pits half way into the hour long race the English driver handed over to the Jerseyman. Trouble in the pits caused Speedworks pulses to race as Jack struggled to put on the racing steering wheel after the driver change. With the wheel fitted and car fired up, Butel was a man on a mission to record another podium.
Fighting his way through slower traffic – the Channel Islander soon re-joined the rostrum runners and got his head down. Chipping away at his personal best lap times Butel maintained the gap behind him and took the chequered flag, claiming his second podium on the bounce.
After an enjoyable and fast paced Spa weekend, Butel reflected on his first silverware in the closed-cockpit series.
“To stand on the podium is fantastic and to get the first one at Spa makes it even sweeter and a memory I will never forget,” said a delighted Butel. “The team did a fantastic job to put together a brilliant car and I also want to thank Scott for joining us this weekend as his sports car experience and knowledge really helped drive us all forward.
“I think Spa is one of the most challenging circuits in the world but yet one that is quite rewarding. The Ligier was built for tracks like this. The aerodynamic grip and speeds we would carry were unbelievable. I learnt so much and could find more performance from the car and give myself more confidence when racing.
“Next up is Silverstone. I went well there in my Formula 4 days and I think we have the strength as a team to fight for more podiums and get closer to our first race win.”
After the overseas round in Belgium the UK LMP3 Cup returns to the UK for the next round at Silverstone – the home of British motorsport for two further races on July 1/2. Butel and Speedworks will once again be in the hunt for further podiums as they look to climb the championship standings even further.