CrowdStrike Racing by APR, George Kurtz, Colin Braun and Malthe Jakobsen were crowned 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Teams and Drivers Champions as Algarve Pro’s Chris McMurry, Freddie Tomlinson and Toby Sowery sealed a dominant win in the 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi (10-11 February).
The success makes Algarve Pro Racing a four-time Asian Le Mans LMP2 title-winner, adding to the championships achieved in 2016-17, 2019-20 and 2021, as well as the ‘Gentleman’s Trophy’ it won in 2017-18.
The Portugal-based squad has subsequently earned another automatic invitation to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (15-16 June), having already been awarded an entry for winning the European Le Mans Series, shortly after taking Kurtz to IMSA’s Jim Trueman Bronze Cup in 2023.
CrowdStrike Racing by APR brought itself back into championship contention by converting a strategic masterstroke into victory in Saturday’s red flag-affected 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi, before sealing the championship with a fifth-place result in Sunday’s season finale at Yas Marina Circuit.
However, Algarve Pro wrapped up the 2023-24 campaign on the top step of the winners’ rostrum, as the #25 crew of McMurry, Tomlinson and Sowery dominated their high-calibre, super-experienced LMP2 opposition.
In the first 240-minute race at Yas Marina, CrowdStrike Racing’s Kurtz rose from fifth to third and Algarve Pro’s McMurry from tenth to seventh during an opening lap that threw the 2023-24 title fight wide open, as it featured a spin for the championship leader.
Later, a rotation at Turn 14 dropped the #4 ORECA 07-Gibson off the lead lap, but Kurtz crept forward until the completion of his stint, and further progress was made when Braun was installed during a timely second-hour Safety Car.
The American Pro’s first task was to lift CrowdStrike Racing back onto the lead lap and, consistently the fastest driver on-track, he succeeded in his mission before giving way to teammate Jakobsen.
The young Dane had climbed to third when the race was red-flagged with a little over an hour on the clock, but then followed a strategic masterstroke.
The #4 was summoned to pit lane for an emergency service and took on the maximum five-second allowance of fuel while the field continued circulating at a reduced speed behind the Safety Car, saving masses of time and shortening its final refill, executed the next time around as green-flag racing resumed.
As a consequence, CrowdStrike Racing by APR vaulted the opposition, and Jakobsen then broke his pursuers’ spirits, maintaining a lead of more than ten seconds on well-worn tyres to close out a masterful victory.
The triumph gave the squad a four-point buffer at the top of the standings, but it was all to play for with five teams still in contention for the LMP2 crowns entering the second 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi on Sunday (11 February).
Unfortunately, in an attacking start to the title-deciding race, Kurtz got pinched between Turns 1 and 2 and span to the tail end of the field.
Mercifully, the #4 car was able to continue on, and winning the title was still the core objective, especially as misfortune had also befallen other key protagonists.
CrowdStrike Racing was soon back up in the points-paying positions and ahead of main title challenger, 99 Racing, which was consistently slower and steadily dropped away.
A red flag lasting more than an hour preceded an emergency service for fuel, which hurt the #4 crew’s progress, but Braun made short work of climbing the leaderboard, tightening the team’s grip on the championship as he went.
Fifth entering the final hour, Jakobsen’s only task was to conserve the car and close out the season, and a P5 finish was sufficient to secure a maiden Asian Le Mans Series title for CrowdStrike Racing, and the fourth in Algarve Pro’s illustrious history.
George Kurtz (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “It feels fantastic to win the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. All credit to the CrowdStrike Racing by APR team, Colin (Braun) and Malthe (Jakobsen). There were so many ups and downs and to get the job done in the way we did, overcoming a lot of adversity, speaks volumes. ‘Never give up’ is the line of the week because we were in some precarious positions, we managed to work through them and come away with a race win and championships.
Colin Braun (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I’m super-pumped to have won the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. It’s huge for CrowdStrike Racing by APR and I’m really proud of everyone’s efforts throughout this campaign. All of the tracks were new to me and George (Kurtz) and there was a lot to take in, but we all did a great job, we never gave up during the uncertain times, there was some great work in the pits and the team put all the pieces of the puzzle together to win the big prize.”
Malthe Jakobsen (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I’m super happy to have been part of CrowdStrike Racing by APR. It has been fun, we’ve had some good races together, and we did the best we could as a team to win the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. It was tougher than expected at times, but we stayed clean and won the championship. That’s what’s most important.”
In the #25 Algarve Pro Racing machine, McMurry was embroiled in multi-car battles and yoyoed between seventh and tenth positions as others came to grief during the opening fuel stint of the first 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi.
The American Am eventually dipped into the top six by driving smartly and cleanly, but the #25 crew was disadvantaged by a Safety Car that followed their driver-change to Tomlinson, who ceded position to the #4 CrowdStrike Racing car but edged up into P7 during another solid race run.
Sowery also had forward momentum and was fifth when the red flags flew during the third hour, but, in attack mode at the resumption of racing, he skated wide while engaged in a battle with the #30 Duqueine Team and ultimately finished seventh.
In Sunday’s season-ending 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi, McMurry survived a typically dramatic opening lap in ninth but cleared the #34 Nielsen Racing and established himself in sixth position after an early Safety Car.
The race was red-flagged with the #25 machine in the midst of its first stop, so Algarve Pro took the opportunity to service the car and insert Tomlinson, who held P1 with more than 75 seconds in hand after the bulk of the LMP2 field boxed for fuel at the restart.
Phenomenally, the LMP2 rookie lapped class rivals while extending his advantage, even with drops of rain falling on Yas Marina Circuit, enabling Sowery to pace himself against the opposition en route to an exceptional victory.
Chris McMurry (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “To win the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi is just great. The odds of succeeding in motorsport are low, but the racing Gods were with us and it was awesome to stand on the top step of the podium with Freddie (Tomlinson) and Toby (Sowery). Frankly, I’m someone who thought he was done racing and I’m teamed with a couple of guys who have little or no LMP2 experience under their belts. We’ve only got better, banging out the laps and keeping the car clean throughout the 2023-24 season. I’m incredibly proud.”
Freddie Tomlinson (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “We’ve worked really hard as a team and have had a great trajectory since the opening round of the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series at Sepang, improving consistently. To come away with the victory in the 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi leaves me lost for words, but thanks has to go to Algarve Pro Racing. I hope to have many more successes at this level because I feel I’ve got to grips with LMP2 after taking what I always knew was a big step up from GT4.”
Toby Sowery (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “We knew we had the pace in the car and the ability to put together a great result after the first race in Abu Dhabi, so I’m super chuffed to come away from the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series with a win. It’s a little surreal and it’s nice to be back on the top step of a podium. I couldn’t have done it without Chris (McMurry), Freddie (Tomlinson) and Algarve Pro Racing, which provided a really fast car. It’s good to end the season – my first in LMP2 – with a bang and I’m certainly looking forward to celebrating with the team.”
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “A top job done by all”