Andrea Pizzitola, Mark Patterson and John Falb are set to front Algarve Pro Racing’s assault on the 2019 European Le Mans Series (ELMS).
Pizzitola will enter the 2019 ELMS as reigning LMP2 Champion but hopes he will also kick-off the new European motorsport season as an Asian Le Mans Series title-winner.
In 2016, the French Pro racer from Montpellier made his ELMS and 24 Hours of Le Mans debut and notably contested the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series with Algarve Pro Racing.
He returned to the fold for a stab at the outright 2018-19 title, which will be decided in the forthcoming season finale at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia (22-24 February), and will remain with the Albufeira-based team to defend his European crown.
“I’m really happy to be extending my association with Algarve Pro Racing,” said Pizzitola. “It’s the team that gave me my first chance in LMP2, so for me it’s more than a team, it’s part of the story of my career and a family. I’m also excited to be racing again in the European Le Mans Series with Mark (Patterson) and John (Falb). It’s going to be an awesome challenge and I think we can figure highly throughout.
“In the ORECA 07 we have a good chance to be out front in qualifying and we can always aim for the podium. The level is high in the ELMS and that will make achieving results even more satisfying. We will do all we can to feature at the top. Last year I had a great season, winning the title. I’m not going into 2019 with the specific aim of defending my crown, as I just want to race. I took the same approach last year and thoughts about the championship always come later.”
Patterson has once again extended his long-standing association with Algarve Pro Racing, which hails back to the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series, when he was a regular visitor to the winners’ rostrum.
Since then, the 67-year old Bronze driver from the USA has raced a full season in the ELMS and two 24 Hours of Le Mans’ with Algarve Pro, although he is also currently bidding for the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans LMP2 Amateur Trophy and a coveted invitation to the 2019 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours with the Portuguese team.
Patterson, whose motor racing résumé encompasses six Le Mans, nine Daytona 24 Hours and two Petit Le Mans starts, said: “I really want to do well and finish regularly inside the top half of the LMP2 field in 2019. With a guy like Andrea (Pizzitola) who has immense skill and rarely makes mistakes and somebody like John (Falb), who is a former Champion and a very fast, diligent driver, we should be very competitive.
“John steps up from LMP3 to LMP2 and with a good test programme he will be a super-quick and reliable Bronze. In fact, we’re both strong, reliable Am drivers capable of withstanding any other Bronze competitor, and this will only be helped by the fact that we will be driving an ORECA 07, which is said to be the most obedient and stable of the current crop of LMP2 cars. It seems easier to find the golden thread on each and every track with the ORECA and I couldn’t be happier to be jumping into this experiment with Algarve Pro Racing.”
Sharing the #25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 with Pizzitola and Patterson will be 47-year old American, Falb.
The Las Vegas driver’s roots lie in two-wheeled competition, as he spent several years contesting California Club events before turning to four wheels as his family commitments grew and his career developed.
After forging a reputation as a prototype winner with three Radical Cup USA titles and a brace of Masters Championships in IMSA Prototype Lights, he set his sights on LMP3 in the ELMS.
Three seasons in the category have seen the American scale the ELMS rostrum seven times and achieve an additional podium at each of the five showings of the Michelin Le Mans Cup’s blue riband ‘Road to Le Mans’ race.
However, these efforts ultimately culminated in the 2017 ELMS LMP3 title. In 2019, Falb will continue traversing the Atlantic for each and every round of the European Le Mans Series, except he will now line up for Algarve Pro Racing as part of the ELMS’s headlining and ultra-competitive LMP2 field.
“I feel really good and I’m ready to go,” said Falb. “I’ve been methodically stepping up the prototypes ladder over the years and after three seasons on the ELMS LMP3 grid, it’s definitely time to graduate to LMP2.
“Having already tested a P2 car, I’m really excited about this new challenge. LMP2 is a very competitive class and there aren’t many teams with Bronze drivers in their line-ups, so I must keep reasonable expectations and simply concentrate on doing my best. I would certainly like to pop some Champagne on the podium more than once, but the results will be what they are and this is an opportunity to work and improve with a solid team.”
The six-part 2019 European Le Mans Series commences with the 4 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France (12-14 April) and encompasses halts at Monza, Barcelona, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao.