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Vanina Ickx and Signature Plus sample “tasty” Portimao Champagne

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Signature Plus, with drivers Vanina Ickx, Pierre Ragues and Franck Mailleux, finished third, rounding off the podium places at the Le Mans Series' Portimao 1000km.

The trio had to overcome a brace of problems, running second in their customer Lola-Aston Martin before being handed a atop-go penalty for breaking the pitlane speed limit. The drivers then had to finish the race with no radio to the team, still bringing the no.008 car home the ORECA Peugeot and the first Rebellion Lola.

The podium placed was the team's best result of the season far, allowing Ickx and her teammates to taste Le Mans Series Champagne for the first time. “It [the champagne] was tasty!” said the Belgian lady-racer. “Especially because I could share it with the team. It rewards Pierre, Franck and Team Signature-Plus' work. The team have been working hard since the beginning of the season, but never saw thefruits of their labour. After Le Mans, the mechanics have worked flat out to get the car ready. Their strenuous efforts have finally been rewarded.”

The weekend had started less promisingly for the French team, an electrical problem limiting their running in first practice in an event where the Saturday night race meant a condensed timetable for the LMS field.

“We didn't have too much time to drive the car, and the night session is always tricky,” she explained. “I was able to set a good pace in the warm-up. It took me more time than it usually does, but it was my first race on this track. The situation was quite paradoxical as you have to set good lap times and take your time in the same time.”

Having recovered from the early set back (qualifying third for the race) Ickx's next challenge came when she loaded into the car, with the coupe down in sixth. Playing a major role in the team's eventual finish she drove up to third during her stint before Mailleux finished the race with a triple stint.

“I didn't look at the times and I drove with cautious in traffic,” Vanina says of her time on track. “I had a good feeling at the end of my stint, but I didn't know for certain if it was only a feeling. Then, [team principal] Philippe Sinault, Pierre Ragues and the whole team were smiling. My stint was great. I needed it.”

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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