Algarve Pro Racing worked its way into the battle for LMP2 Pro-Am honours with James Allen, George Kurtz and Colin Braun as the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans approached half-distance (10-11 June).
Central France had bathed in glorious June sunshine throughout testing, practice and qualifying, but dark clouds loomed ominously and rain was reported at the Dunlop Curve and Tertre Rouge during the ‘countdown to green’ on Saturday (10 June) afternoon.
Some readied wet weather tyres as the pre-race formalities came to a close, but Algarve Pro correctly chose to keep the CrowdStrike-liveried ORECA 07 LMP2 on slick Goodyears for the starting stint.
From ninth in LMP2 and second in Pro-Am, Allen took the Algarve Pro-run #45 prototype away into the twice-around-the-clock enduro and survived an incident-packed opening lap, which preceded a Safety Car.
The neutralisation prompted some to box early and Algarve Pro was tenth, at the head of the Pro-Am sub-category when racing resumed, although there were frequent changes in the running order on the approach to the first round of LMP2 stops, which came at the top of hour one.
Allen’s pace was competitive and Algarve Pro managed to go a lap longer than most before boxing to refuel and install Kurtz, who held onto third position in Pro-Am until he was summoned back to pit lane early for a ‘cheap’ splash-and-dash, with multiple slow zones in force.
CrowdStrike’s Kurtz was stellar throughout his maiden Le Mans race stint, as he kept the #45 machine in the thick of the Pro-Am fight until a third-hour downpour prompted Algarve Pro to fit wet tyres and insert the super-experienced Braun.
With several cars slipping into the barriers and gravel on the part wet, part dry track, the Safety Car was redeployed until conditions stabilised, at which point multiple teams opted to pit.
Algarve Pro, though, once again stayed out a little longer than its rivals and eventually progressed back up into the Pro-Am podium places when another torrent hit Circuit de la Sarthe at the six-hour mark, just in time for the squad’s scheduled fuel and tyre stop.
Allen returned to the fray and his lap times were blistering in all conditions while running as high as fifth in LMP2 and second in Pro-Am.
In fact, he was frequently quicker and closing in on the class-leading #80 AF Corse machine, until Algarve Pro was forced to replace a regulation Accident Data Recorder shortly after midnight.
A Safety Car minimised the time-loss and, although the Portugal-based team plummeted to 14th in the overall LMP2 queue, it remained third in Pro-Am, and Braun deployed frontrunning pace to reascend to second soon after the green flags flew.
Algarve Pro eventually found itself in a fight for the lead with the #80 entry after the #37 COOL Racing car boxed from P1 for repairs, and the CrowdStrike prototype was in a solid second place with Kurtz at the controls and no immediate threat from behind at the halfway point of the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans.