Algarve Pro Racing remains in the thick of the tussle for a spot on the LMP2 Pro-Am podium with the #45 combination of James Allen, Steven Thomas and Rene Binder now 12 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans have elapsed (11-12 June).
An innocuous-looking collision with the wall late on in FP2 on Wednesday (8 June) resulted in heavy damage that necessitated a complete ground-up rebuild of the #45 ORECA 07 that took Algarve Pro’s mechanics right through Wednesday night to the following afternoon.
Having been unable to participate in Qualifying-Practice, Allen, Thomas and Binder were obliged to start the twice-around-the-clock endurance race from the back of the grid, but the former was quick to rise to 18th in LMP2 and fifth in Pro-Am in the opening stint.
Thomas was installed in the #45 at the end of the first hour and the American Bronze stood his ground during a stellar double race run, and Binder pushed on to successfully reduce the deficit to the Pro-Am leading #39 Graff Racing and #83 AF Corse machines.
As darkness descended, Thomas, Allen and Binder crept up to the very top of the LMP2 Pro-Am classification, stretching their legs and drawing out a healthy advantage for a time, but the order has shuffled incessantly throughout the night and the Algarve Pro trio were third in class when 12 hours passed.
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for the Sophia Flörsch, John Falb and Jack Aitken trio because, moments after the race started, the #47 machine slowed to a halt with an overheating gearbox actuator.
Flörsch trundled back to the pits and, although five laps were lost while mechanics resolved the issue, the ORECA has since run competitively, Aitken setting car-best lap times in the 3m33s after taking the controls approximately two hours into the race.
The #47 crew pushed on into the night and soon regained a lap on their class rivals, but there was little scope for further improvements as Le Mans debutant Aitken completed a long night drive before Falb returned to the fray during the early hours of Sunday (12 June) morning.
Jack Aitken (#47 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “It was a disappointing start to the race for Sophia (Florsch, John (Falb) and I, and we pretty much accepted that we’re never going to gain five laps back on the main LMP2 field on pace alone. We’re slowly clawing our way back towards the pack, we’ve regained one lap on our Pro-Am rivals and we’re working on the second. Everything’s going ok now so we’re just going to keep doing the laps. I’m trying to be very disciplined because it’s my first 24 Hours of Le Mans and everyone tells you to save your energy whenever you can, so I’m getting as much sleep as possible. We can’t afford anymore mistakes and we’ll see where we end up at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.”