Algarve Pro Racing Team finished within sight of the podium in the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Silverstone (17-18 August).
BRDC Superstar Harrison Newey, Ryan Cullen and Gustavo Menezes yoyoed up and down the leaderboard throughout the 240-minute enduro, but brilliantly recovered from incidents that cost them chunks of time to finish fifth.
Tacksung Kim, Ate Dirk de Jong and Mark Patterson, meanwhile, drove solidly all weekend, consistently hitting their target lap times to receive the chequered flag just outside of the top ten in 11th position.
Algarve Pro Racing Team had a strong start to free practice on Friday (17 August). Menezes set a 1m47.072s on only his second lap of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit to secure third in the FP1 classification;
De Jong, Kim and Patterson were some five seconds faster than they were in testing on Monday (13 August) from the outset of free practice, but continued tweaking the #25 Ligier JSP2-17 to make the car more compliant on Silverstone’s bumpy surface, and Patterson subsequently set two personal bests in the 1m52s during the latter stages of FP2;
Menezes, who dovetailed his ELMS programme with FIA World Endurance Championship commitments at Silverstone, went on to qualify the #31 APR-Rebellion ORECA 07 in 11th;
Kim put in a super-impressive qualifying performance, as the South Korean went a full second faster than he and teammates de Jong and Patterson had managed in practice, recording a 1m51.655s for 16th on the ELMS 4 Hours of Silverstone starting grid;
At the end of a busy opening lap, Cullen in the #31 ORECA could be found in 13th with a small eight tenths deficit to SMP Racing’s Victor Shaitar, while Kim was latched on to the rear of the LMP2 field in 16th;
Cullen quickly breached the top ten and, during his ascent, was swiped by the #21 DragonSpeed entry of Henrik Hedman before being engaged in battle by IDEC Sport’s Patrice Lafargue;
The Irish racer worked lapped traffic well while also managing the wear of his aged hard compound ‘B’ tyres to keep Lafargue at bay, but he was unable to make inroads on the top nine while playing a rear-guard action;
On lap 36, Algarve Pro Racing reacted quickly to a Full Course Yellow, switching Cullen for Newey in the #31 before replacing Kim with de Jong in the #25;
At the resumption of racing, Newey lapped competitively. The 20-year old from Oxford made good use of his fresh tyres to rise to eighth place at the expense of Jose Gutierrez;
With 1h20m of the race remaining, Menezes took over the #31. The American was the fastest driver on the track for a time, lapping in the 1m48s and rising to fourth place before his final splash-and-dash;
Sadly, a wayward Will Stevens collided with Menezes after running wide, causing debilitating damage to the APR-Rebellion ORECA’s front-right corner;
Despite the damage, Menezes resolutely pushed on to fifth position in the final classification, while de Jong and Patterson completed the four-hour race in 11th, just one second ahead of the recovering #40 G-Drive Racing car.
Ryan Cullen (#31 APR-Rebellion ORECA 07): “It’s encouraging that we keep moving up by making small, positive changes here and there. The end result is probably the most we could have achieved and I’m looking forward to the next round at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which is my favourite track. We started this weekend on a strong footing and I’m strong at Spa, so I think we have a good chance of podium if we prepare well there.”
Gustavo Menezes (#31 APR-Rebellion ORECA 07): “It’s a little frustrating, because we struggled a lot at the beginning of the race. The car was a real handful for Ryan (Cullen), the rear wing was changed during Harrison’s (Newey) stint and things started getting better, but I went out with the view of doing something different and I was on a Sunday cruise, making up positions until, on the second lap of the second stint, Will Stevens made contact with me. It’s a real shame because we had the pace of the lead LMP2s. I was driving with a damaged front-right corner and I did what I could. Nevertheless, we moved up from the back end of the grid to fifth. Hopefully we can be at the front of the field where contact is less likely from the beginning of the races at Spa and Portimao.”
Tacksung Kim (#25 Algarve Pro Racing Team Ligier JSP2-17): “We continue to make progress and 11th place is our best result to date. Our pace was very strong throughout the weekend and I’m very satisfied that we finished just outside of the top ten at Silverstone, which is far more challenging than I expected. It’s very physical because of the high speeds and bumps and I had a hard time at the start of the race, but I think I did pretty well in the end.”
Ate Dirk de Jong (#25 Algarve Pro Racing Team Ligier JSP2-17): “I said at the start of the year that I’d be really pleased if we got a top ten result, and we’re getting closer. Today, we were a bit lucky that other cars had problems, but we had to push until the very last lap to keep the 12th-placed car at bay and I’m delighted that we held on. During my stint, I was pushed off onto the run-off areas twice and it took about five laps to clear the marbles and rubbish off my tyres each time. The second half of my run was better, although there was a lot of traffic and I opted for a more conservative approach, which effected my lap times. Tacksung (Kim) and I had never been to Silverstone, but we did a two-day test at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and I think we will be stronger there.”