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algarve pro racing

Algarve Pro Racing making gains after challenging start to 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans

Algarve Pro Racing has crept up into the top ten in LMP2 following a challenging start to the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans (15-16 June), impacted by an early repair stop and balance issues with the #25 ORECA 07-Gibson of Olli Caldwell, Matthias Kaiser and Roman De Angelis.

However, CrowdStrike Racing by APR’s quest for a second consecutive LMP2 Pro-Am victory ended when the #45 protype’s left-rear wheel made a bid for freedom at the 11th hour, with Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Nick Catsburg running fourth in class.

Neither the #25 Algarve Pro nor the #45 CrowdStrike Racing car featured highly in the Free Practice times, but race performance had been at the core of the team’s run-plans and all six drivers expressed confidence and positivity about their prospects for the twice-around-the-clock enduro.

The 92nd edition of Le Mans commenced at 16:00 on an unseasonably cool June afternoon in the Loire Valley, Caldwell starting the #25 Algarve Pro ORECA and Braun the #45 CrowdStrike-liveried prototype from 15th and16th respectively.

Progress was made by both drivers during the early exchanges, but a gust of wind tipped the #25 APR machine into a slide, and a slight brush with the wall before Tertre Rouge resulted in a broken front-left steering arm.

Algarve Pro’s mechanics leapt into action and replaced the damaged part in a quick turnaround so that Caldwell rejoined the race in P15, still hopeful that he, Kaiser and De Angelis could recover the lost laps in the remaining 23h30m.

Braun, though, continued circulating in P12 until the second scheduled stop, in which the #45 car was taken over by CrowdStrike’s Kurtz.

Shortly after, both APR-run entries returned to pit lane to take on wet Goodyears as a downpour swept in from the direction of the Porsche Curves, although the rain abated quickly and the team was forced to revert back to slicks.

Caldwell went on to gain 13th position at the expense of the #45 CrowdStrike car, which lost time when a slow zone ended while it was in pit lane for an emergency service.

As instability was hampering progress in the changeable conditions, Algarve Pro introduced a replacement high-downforce rear wing to the #25 ORECA during De Angelis’s first stint in an attempt to improve the car’s balance.

However, the rain returned approaching quarter-distance and there were split strategies within the APR camp, De Angelis in the #25 braving slicks and Catsburg in the #45 opting for grooved rubber.

A protracted Safety Car lasting more than 90 minutes took the race beyond the strike of midnight and both APR cars gained back a lap during the passaround.

On a charge, Catsburg and Caldwell engaged the #65 Panis Racing in battle, both making their first appearances inside the top ten in LMP2 and the latter turning in car-best lap times in the cool of the night.

Unfortunately, CrowdStrike Racing retired when the #45 car’s left-rear wheel broke loose during the 11th hour, but Algarve Pro remained in a solid ninth place in LMP2 with the #25 machine of Caldwell, Kaiser and De Angelis at the halfway point of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Olli Caldwell (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “My start was good and I gained ground while staying out of trouble. However, we were only a few laps in when I had a massive snap of oversteer seemingly out of nowhere just before Tertre Rouge. It sent me wide, I touched the wall and bent the steering, which is very disappointing.

“Our car balance was unstable in the changing conditions, but the good thing is that the incident occurred early on because, at that point, we still had over 23h30m to come back. We have since made a change to the setup, adding quite a lot of rear downforce. The car is now giving a lot more confidence. We just really need to stay out of harm’s way and avoid any mistakes for the remainder of the race.”

Roman De Angelis (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “My first 24 Hours of Le Mans race stints are complete and it was pretty amazing to take the car from the day into the night. The race didn’t start the way we wanted but we gained back a lot of time with some great calls by Algarve Pro Racing to keep me out on slicks in the rainy conditions.

“My first run was one of the most difficult stints of my career, being in a relatively unfamiliar car that I’ve never driven in the wet, let alone at Le Mans. However, I’m really enjoying the whole experience and it looks as though things will go well for us if we continue making gains in the coming hours.”

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