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Algarve Pro deflated after late puncture thwarts top five ELMS finish at Imola

A top five result eluded Algarve Pro Racing in the stop/start European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Imola (13-15 May).

Debris caused a puncture on the #19 ORECA 07 LMP2 in the final ten minutes of the race at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, resigning Sophia Flörsch and Bent Viscaal to an eighth-place finish, while the #47 Pro-Am trio of John Falb, Alex Peroni and James Allen were locked in 15th position after early drama.

Algarve Pro targeted the top six in qualifying, but a minor delay in the pits threw the session into disarray, as both team cars were out of sequence and in traffic for the duration.

However, as both the #47 and #19 crews were well out of position in seventh and 15th on the starting grid respectively, Falb and Viscaal made quick progress through the field in the race on Sunday (15 May).

Falb made his way up into sixth overall and second in LMP2 Pro-Am as Viscaal breached the top ten on the opening lap, but the latter went on to climb ten places within just 30 minutes to head the Algarve Pro charge in P5.

In fact, Viscaal was fourth and homing in on the podium places when he boxed for his  first refill, but an untimely Full Course Yellow (FCY) enabled several rivals to minimise their time-loss in the pits and leapfrog the #19 Algarve Pro ORECA, which tumbled back down to tenth.

Falb, though, was among the beneficiaries of the FCY, jumping back up to seventh overall and third in Pro-Am having previously fallen to 11th during a brief trip across the Italian scenery.

However, the American Am soon found himself beached in the gravel after colliding with a lapped runner and, three laps adrift of the race leaders, he, Peroni and James Allen could ultimately go no better than 15th overall and sixth in LMP2 Pro-Am.

Unperturbed by the FCY setback, Viscaal cleared the #21 Muhlner Motorsport and #34 Racing Team Turkey entries to return Algarve Pro to the top six at the completion of a remarkable two-hour stint.

Flörsch picked up the baton and was rapid in hot pursuit of the #28 IDEC Sport car, which Algarve Pro jumped in the pits, although a strategic decision to refuel during a FCY later in the race initially put the #19 ORECA down in eighth.

Happily, supreme pace on triple-stinted tyres resulted in significant gains before Algarve Pro boxed for one final splash of fuel during a subsequent neutralisation, and Flörsch was fifth with a clear view of the intensifying fight for third when, in the dying embers of the race, debris caused a left-front puncture.

Time and positions were lost as Flörsch toured back to the pits for a quick tyre-change, and the chequered flag fell on the ELMS 4 Hours of Imola with her in an underwhelming eighth place.

Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “We were looking forward to a good race, as our long-run pace was strong in free practice, but we had our fair share of misfortune. John (Falb) was doing an amazing job in the first stint, until an over-exuberant move on a lapped LMP3 car caused a costly spin into the gravel. Both Alex and James (Allen) did super jobs, James recording phenomenal lap times on four-stint old tyres to get the car to the finish in 15th overall and sixth in LMP2 Pro-Am.

“Bent (Viscaal) performed brilliantly, as he got straight up to fourth and, despite being hindered by the first Full Course Yellow, ended the second hour in the top six. Sophia was also rapid and continued making up ground to third. We made a tactical call to box for fuel during a FCY, knowing we would have to take another splash and believing we would regain track position later in the race. It pretty much went according to plan and we were fifth, but debris ended up in the left-front wheel-arch and punctured a tyre. It’s just bad luck, but it’s frustrating nevertheless because we would have finished fifth and been at or near the top of the standings.”

B.R.M Chronographes Goodyear Motul Adtrak Envaristo

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