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Algarve Pro Racing overcomes challenging ELMS 4 Hours of Monza weekend

In a spirited display of determination, Algarve Pro Racing overcame significant challenges to finish the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza in 12th and 14th overall (10-12 May).

In testing on Wednesday (8 May), a heavy shunt involving both Algarve Pro Racing cars caused extensive damage to both ORECA chassis;

Mark Patterson lost control of #25 at the first heavy braking zone for Variante del Rettifilo and collected Tacksung Kim in the sister #31 car, sustaining three pelvic fractures;

The South Africa-born racer was hospitalised and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future, forcing him to relinquish his place on the 24 Heures du Mans starting grid next month (15-16 June);

Full rebuilds were required and a dogged and determined effort by Algarve Pro Racing’s mechanics ensured both cars cleared scrutineering and were ready to partake in ELMS free practice on Friday (10 May);

The Portugal-based team had its back against the wall to set up the cars, but pushed hard in free practice and the Bronze Collective Test, to great avail;

The team crept up the timesheets and were knocking on the door of the top five in the Bronze Test with John Falb and Kim on Friday afternoon;

A 1m36.659s meant Andrea Pizzitola began Saturday’s programme in fifth overall, and Falb dipped into the 1m39s, as he had done in testing;

The #31 crew of Kim, James French and Henning Enqvist, meanwhile, had great consistency throughout free practice, thanks in part to Algarve Pro’s efforts to optimise the newly rebuilt ORECAs;

In LMP2 Qualifying, Pizzitola went seventh quickest (1m35.886s) and French 17th (1m36.942s), although both were promoted to sixth and 16th respectively when one rival was removed from the result;

The ELMS 4 Hours of Monza was preceded by a special grid presentation for the injured Mark Patterson, featuring Algarve Pro’s drivers, mechanics and race organisers;

Falb and Kim were selected to start the 240-minute contest – it would be Falb’s first ever endurance race start;

Sadly, the Las Vegas-domiciled Falb was tipped into a spin at the exit of the Rettifilo chicane and faced an uphill battle to recover from the back of the 41-car ELMS field, which features 19 LMP2 entries;

Kim, meanwhile, kept his nose clean but was soon engaged in an intra-team battle with Falb for 16th;

Falb’s forward momentum carried him to the head of the Algarve Pro charge, when a reactive strategic decision to box during an early Full Course Yellow promoted the #25 and #31 entries to 13th and 14th respectively;

Later, Algarve Pro Racing was unfortunate to lose touch with the main LMP2 pack; it replaced Kim with French in #31 just one lap before another caution period when most teams conducted driver-changes, minimising their time-loss;

Pizzitola lost a lap to the race leaders while taking the reins of #25 but managed to reach the top ten by lapping consistently in the 1m39s while also managing tyre wear;

French and Enqvist both ran lonely double stints in 16th with significant gaps to those ahead, although the latter set about recording the #31 car’s fastest laps of the race in the 1m38s;

Excessive oversteer prompted Algarve Pro to change the #31 ORECA’s rear-wing midway through French’s stint;

Falb returned to the cockpit of #25 during the dying embers of the race. He and Enqvist picked up places as others faltered and received the chequered flag in 12th and 14th overall.

John Falb (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “First of all, we so wish Mark (Patterson) was here with us. It’s really unfortunate that he got injured in testing and we hope he will be back in the car soon. Reflecting on my race, my start was fine until I was hit and spat onto the grass. From there, I just reset and passed half a dozen cars, but Andrea (Pizzitola) and I had real trouble managing tyre degradation and that limited our progress. However, for me, it was a good event because I was in the car for two and a half hours, I’m satisfied with my pace and I made my first race start after four years in the European Le Mans Series.”

Andrea Pizzitola (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “John (Falb) did a good job in his first LMP2 race start, but it’s unfortunate how it panned out. Unfortunately, we struggled for grip and we have work to do to understand how to get the new Dunlop tyres to work. Algarve Pro Racing did a great job – the pit stops were on point – and I’m pleased with how we performed as drivers too.”

James French (#31 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “Racing at Monza has been on my bucket list for some time, so this week has been exciting. Algarve Pro Racing did well to recover from the testing incident and re-build a great car that performed as before, without missing any track time. The driving techniques needed to be fast at Monza are counter-intuitive, so I took little steps and got on top of those. Ultimately, the Full Course Yellows really killed us and I spent most of my stint lapping on my own in 16th, but it only motivates me to push harder next time out.”

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