Algarve Pro Racing achieved a desired top ten finish in the 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans with drivers Andrea Pizzitola, John Falb and David Zollinger (15-16 June).
The twice-around-the-clock endurance race started with Pizzitola making several overtakes to rise from 16th to eighth during a relentless quadruple stint;
An early fuel refill helped Algarve Pro Racing’s push – by pitting out of sequence with its LMP2 rivals, the team could take advantage of an empty pit lane and clean air;
American racer Falb picked up the baton and took time to build speed and confidence, but completed his triple stint as one of the fastest Bronze-graded drivers;
Zollinger inherited the #25 ORECA in 14th and pushed on to reduce the gap to the 13th-placed runner, and Algarve Pro Racing was 12th at the end of Pizzitola’s next stint;
Falb returned to the cockpit after the sun had set on Circuit de la Sarthe. The Las Vegas driver emerged from the stops in 12th and kept Algarve Pro in position for the duration of a lonely night drive that was only spiced up by Safety Car restarts;
A minor collision with a bollard caused light damage to the #25 machine’s front splitter, so Algarve Pro’s mechanics set about constructing a new nose section in readiness for an 11th-hour driver-switch to Zollinger;
Shortly after, a front-right brake disc failure forced Zollinger back to the pit garage, where Algarve Pro’s mechanics were ready and waiting to replace the offending parts and carry out thorough checks to avoid a repeat failure;
The Albufeira, Portugal team summoned the #25 ORECA back to the pits some nine laps later to make a precautionary brake disc change on the front-left corner;
Another big push by Pizzitola went some way to negating the time-loss, as the European Champion fought his way up into the top dozen LMP2 runners;
Positions shuffled regularly as strategies played out, but Algarve Pro appeared to have a stranglehold on 12th entering the final quarter of the French endurance classic;
With three hours remaining, Algarve Pro Racing worked its way up into the top ten in class and, after 24 gruelling hours of racing and 357 laps of the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, the Portugal-based team received the chequered flag in tenth position in LMP2.
Andrea Pizzitola (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “I’m very happy with this fantastic result, as we were aiming for a top ten before Race Week. You have to be happy whenever you finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Algarve Pro Racing prepared the car really well – other than the brake disc failure, which can’t be helped, we had no problems during the race. It’s a shame, because we definitely lost positions and I suspect we could have finished inside the top eight, but I’m delighted for the team and my teammates, David (Zollinger) and John (Falb).”
John Falb (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “To achieve P10 at Le Mans is really cool and that was our goal all along. We thought tenth was doable and hoped for more, but to achieve the finish in what is the biggest race in the world where anything and everything can and does happen, is amazing. The race was pretty straightforward and Algarve Pro Racing was incredible. To finish the race is an achievement in itself and it’s a culmination of all of my aspirations to go faster.”
David Zollinger (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “This tenth place in LMP2 is an excellent result. Algarve Pro Racing did a faultless job, just like the pilots, and the only real problem was the brake disc failure that occurred while I was driving during the night. I’ve repeated my best result of 2017, I loved the team, and John (Falb), Andrea (Pizzitola) and I had an incredible week.
“I am happy to have integrated into the Algarve Pro Racing family so well and I would like to thank Samantha and Stewart (Cox) for their welcome, and of course Mark Patterson. I hope he is proud of us all. I’m also thankful to my partners and entourage, without whom none of this would be possible, and I would like to make a special mention to my wife, Camille, who supports me everyday.”
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “Tenth in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a very solid result. Andrea (Pizzitola), John (Falb) and David (Zollinger) all did an incredible job with varying levels of experience and we gave them a good, well-prepared car. We had a brake failure and we don’t know why, but we will understand what went wrong. Other than that, it was a straightforward race and I thought everybody drove maturely, making very few stupid mistakes. All-in-all, a very positive week at Le Mans.”