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Algarve Pro Racing achieves season-best sixth place in ELMS Barcelona night race

Algarve Pro Racing achieved a season’s best sixth-place result in the 2019 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Barcelona (19-20 July), thanks to a stellar joint performance from John Falb, Andrea Pizzitola and Olivier Pla.

On Friday (19 July), Algarve Pro homed in on a setup for the #25 ORECA 07 LMP2 that satisfied Falb, Pizzitola and Pla;

Uncooperative traffic prevented both Algarve Pro crews from maximising their potential over a single lap in qualifying and the #25 was subsequently resigned to tenth on the grid, with the #31 back in 16th;

Falb started the #25 and Tacksung Kim the #31 in the first ‘into-the-night’ race of the modern ELMS era. Both lapped cautiously to ensure they survived the opening exchanges;

Algarve Pro Racing was soon 12th and 14th with the #25 and #31 cars respectively, and continued making headway into the top eight after conducting its first pit stops during a Full Course Yellow (FCY);

The Las Vegas-domiciled Falb confidently led the Algarve Pro charge and notably held his own against United Autosports’ Ryan Cullen and High Class Racing’s Anders Fjordbach before passing the reins to Pizzitola during the second hour;

Ultimately, Falb’s performance provided the #25 crew with solid foundations for a strong result in Barcelona, as Pizzitola emerged from the driver-change inside the top six;

In the #31 Algarve Pro Racing entry, Henning Enqvist consistently lapped at the leaders’ pace, rising from 15th to 11th during a stunning stint that took him well into the third hour;

During his charge, reigning ELMS Champion Pizzitola caught, passed and defended against IDEC Sport’s Memo Rojas in the fight for fifth, but the Algarve Pro challenger eventually made good on his escape;

Algarve Pro’s strategists continued utilising FCYs to minimise the time in the pits, although a Safety Car proved costly for the #25 crew;

Having ascended to P5 and with fourth place on the horizon, Pizzitola lost contact with the fight and dropped to sixth when the Safety Car was deployed shortly after a mid-stint fuel stop;

Fellow Frenchman Pla began his first race run for Algarve Pro during the tricky transition from light to dark, when Enqvist also passed the sister #31 machine to James French;

French would lose track position to BHK Motorsport’s Sergio Campana shortly after taking the wheel, but the American young gun held station in 12th with no immediate threat from behind;

It was a relatively straightforward stint for Pla, as his dash to the chequered flag and a highly respectable sixth-place result was only punctuated by a scheduled splash-and-dash.

Andrea Pizzitola (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “Everybody at Algarve Pro Racing is happy with the sixth-place result because it shows we are improving, but there’s no doubt that we could have done a little better. Free practice went well, and we found a setup that made the car very nice to drive, but for some reason it wasn’t as effective in the race – it seems Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya changed somehow, because it was quite hard to stay on-track. In qualifying we were blocked and we could only go tenth, which isn’t ideal. Nevertheless, we pushed hard and got up to fifth position. We had our sights on fourth, but we were a bit unlucky with the timing of the Safety Car and fell to sixth. John (Falb) did a great stint that set us up for a good result and it was then up to me and Olivier (Pla) to push on. Sixth place is a fantastic outcome, but we won’t give up on the podium in the remaining rounds.”

Henning Enqvist (#31 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “The ELMS 4 Hours of Barcelona weekend has been a great improvement on the previous two rounds in Le Castellet and Monza. We have taken a big step forward with the ORECA, which has much more stability and braking performance. We also found a lot more pace in the tyres and this was our best race of the season so far, as we were much quicker than before. I’m very happy with Algarve Pro Racing’s performance and, while our goal was to finish tenth, we will be quick enough to achieve that in the next race, for sure.”

Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “The ELMS 4 Hours of Barcelona weekend has gone well. If you look at the #25 car, we ran our Bronze driver – John Falb – for much longer than those around us. He learnt a lot and the plan is for him to continue doing long stints for the rest of the year. I’m not overly pleased with sixth, but it’s probably the best we could have done with what we had. Over in the #31 car, Henning (Enqvist) drove the wheels off the ORECA and we kept him in for a long time because his pace was so good. Unfortunately, we lost a lap during the first hour because we were unable to box during the Full Course Yellow – Tacksung Kim needed four more laps to complete his minimum stint time. Both Tack and James (French) are still on a learning curve and they did a good job, but the star of the show in the #31 was undoubtedly Henning. We’re neither happy nor sad as we leave Barcelona, but we know we can do better.”

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