Richard Morris Crowned European Sports Prototype Cup Champion with Victories at Le Mans
The climax of the European Sports Prototype Cup 2023 came on 10-12 November at the most prestigious circuit in the world for sports prototype racing: Le Mans, home of the famous 24 Hour race and the place which spawned the LMP categories of racing. While this event ran on the permanent Bugatti circuit as opposed to the Circuit de la Sarthe used for the 24 hours, which combines both the permanent race-track and public roads, the setting provided the perfect backdrop to the season-ending title decider.
With Richard Morris leading the championship standings heading into the event, one more strong performance would see him take the title. The event comprised a two-hour, two-driver endurance feature race, which Richard shared with Richard Morris Racing team-mate Milan De Laet, followed by a solo-driver sprint race.
Limited testing time and swapping into a different Revolution 500SC car for this event meant there was not long to make adjustments and acclimatise ahead of qualifying. Richard and Milan made substantial changes to the car set-up between Friday testing and Saturday qualifying. In qualifying it was Pedro Salvador (sharing with Richard’s closest championship rival Joaquim Penteado) who secured pole position, followed by Red Bull Junior driver Tim Tramnitz (sharing with Dominik Dierkes). Richard and Milan took 3rd place in qualifying for the important endurance feature race. With further changes made to the car set-up after qualifying, the pair were optimistic of being able to challenge in the race.
Heavy overnight rain meant a wet tyre start with the track only drying slowly in the cold November temperatures. Milan took the start and slotted into 2nd place on the opening lap, following Penteado. On lap 4, Milan battled past and began to establish a lead. A safety car 15 minutes into the race re-bunched the pack, but in the laps after it pulled off Milan reasserted his position, gaining an impressive 12 second lead in the first four laps after the safety car period.
From the front runners, Penteado was the first to pit, handing over to Salvador. Milan came in a few laps later, handing over to Richard. A smooth stop and a strong start to the stint saw Richard hold a 27 second lead over Salvador and settle into a rhythm. Any pressure being exerted by the Penteado/Salvador car evaporated, though, when it was forced to retire at the 1-hour mark, leaving Richard in a commanding position to seal the championship.
With the track now drying quite quickly, Richard put in laps on the worn wet tyres until the circuit was fully ready for slicks and the second pit-window was open to fuel until the end of the race. The final stop saw Milan get back in the now slick-shod car with a comfortable lead. Despite a late scare with gear-selection requiring a quick reset, Milan brought the car home with his customary searing pace to claim the win.
This victory in the endurance feature race meant that Richard was now unassailable in the driver rankings and would be crowned European Sports Prototype Cup Champion 2023!
With the title secured, the remaining solo-driver sprint race was set to be an enjoyable one. The task was made far more complicated, though, by an administrative error from the circuit officials leaving Richard off the grid sheet and forcing him to start from the back of the pack. In the end it only served to increase the entertainment, however, as Richard made more than half a dozen overtakes on the opening lap alone and, driving under no pressure, was able to charge through the traffic and clinch one final victory in 2023!
These two wins at Le Mans concluded a spectacular season of results for Richard. His season accolades include:
European Sports Prototype Cup Champion
BRM Chronographes UK-European Trophy Winner
Dutch Supercar Challenge Zandvoort Trophy of the Dunes Overall Winner
9 podium finishes
Richard said afterwards: “The results this year have been incredible and it’s a real landmark in my career to become a European Champion. As always with sport, it’s been more challenging in reality at times than perhaps it seems from the outside looking at the results, and I’m proud of the determination, dedication, and resilience which has made this achievement possible.
An enormous thank you to: my family, my friends, the incredible community of love and support which is Racing Pride; Jeff Hammerberg and GayRealEstate.com, as well as Gareth Bouch and Vroom Media, who have supported me from early in my prototype career right through to now; Phil Abbott of Revolution Race Cars for the opportunity to become a works driver with the team; the Sports Prototype Cup, James Bailey and PitBox91 for organising a series which has taken me to some of the most famous tracks in the world; all of the teams who have supported me on my journey to get here; all of the mechanics who have given me so many long days and late nights; and, certainly not least, Milan De Laet for being an absolutely sensational teammate this year.
Whatever the future might hold, I am lucky that I will now always have these incredible memories of racing on iconic circuits surrounded by people who mean a huge amount to me.”