Algarve Pro Racing Team will field a Champion driver line-up made up of Andrea Pizzitola, Harrison Newey and Ate Dirk de Jong in an attempt to win the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series.
Last month, it was confirmed that Denmark’s Anders Fjordbach, South African-born Mark Patterson and American racer Chris McMurry would lead Algarve Pro’s bid for the newly-introduced Asian Le Mans LMP2 Amateur Trophy.
Pizzitola, Newey and de Jong, on the other hand, will vie for outright race wins in an attempt to secure the 2018-19 Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships at the end of the four-part season, which includes halts in China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.
Pizzitola, aged 26 from Montpellier, France, won the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans title with Algarve Pro Racing and returns to the fold for the first time since the conclusion of the 2017 European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
The French racer, who last month clinched the 2018 ELMS title, will partner reigning Asian Le Mans Champion Newey and the 2017-18 AsianLMS Gentleman’s Trophy winner de Jong in a second Ligier JSP2, and he said: “I’m really happy and excited to be re-joining Algarve Pro Racing, as I have learnt a lot during my time with the team and it feels like a second home.
“The old Ligier JSP2 is a good car and we have a Judd engine too, which is great. I believe if we work together and avoid on-track incidents we have a line-up capable of achieving the big prize – all we have to do is have a clean season and try to finish near the front to achieve something nice.”
Pizzitola added: “I love the Asian Le Mans Series and I love the circuits, particularly Fuji International Speedway, where the passionate Japanese fans always give great support. I have known Ate (Dirk de Jong) for three years now and I have seen him grow in confidence, so I’m sure he will do good things in the AsianLMS, in which he feels very comfortable. I also know Harrison (Newey) and it’s clear that he’s a nice guy and a very fast racing driver after competing against him in the ELMS. We have a lot of potential and that’s exciting!”
Newey began his car racing career in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and won the 2016-17 MRF Challenge Series before stepping over to endurance sportscar competition and taking the Asian Le Mans title at the first time of asking.
The BRDC Superstar from Ascot said: “I’m really looking forward to going back to Asia. I loved it last year. I had a very good season, winning the championship, and I think it could be possible to defend my crown if everything goes well. My attitude going into the 2017-18 season was to just drive as best as I can and what will be, will be, and I’m taking that same approach this year.
“I first met Ate (Dirk de Jong) in Asia and he was just finding his feet in LMP2. He has made a lot of progress throughout the European season, since I first tested with him at the start of the year. I look forward to working wiith him and I hope to help him progress further, making him a faster racing driver, which he is completely capable of being. Of course, Andrea (Pizzitola) is a European and Asian Le Mans Series Champion and an on-track 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, so we have a very good lne–up and I hope to get wins and podiums. We will see where we end up in the championship.”
De Jong, meanwhile, benefited from professional coaching from Pizzitola prior to his maiden LMP2 campaign in the 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series. The Philippines-based Dutchman went on to win the inaugural Gentleman’s Trophy and remained within the Algarve Pro Racing fold for this year’s ELMS, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Having improved in leaps and bounds since embarking on Algarve Pro’s driver coaching programme, de Jong now feels ready to battle at the front for race and championship victories, saying: “This year’s aim is to compete at the sharp end of the overall classification, with two Pro drivers – my coach and reigning ELMS Champion Andrea Pizzitola and rising star and Asian Le Mans Champion Harrison Newey – alongside me. Much like last season, the Asian Le Mans Series is high in quality. There are a lot of professional entries with top-line drivers, therefore we must target consistent podium finishes throughout. From there, we will just have to see where we end up in the final order.”
The 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series commences with the 4 Hours of Shanghai on 23-25 November, before moving on to Japan’s Fuji International Speedway (7-9 December), Thailand’s Chang International Circuit (10-12 January) and Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit (22-24 February).