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Algarve Pro’s “big push” for ELMS title glory bolstered by meticulous Le Castellet win

Algarve Pro Racing’s “big push” for championship glory in the 2023 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) received a major boost following a meticulous run to victory with Kyffin Simpson, Alex Lynn and James Allen in the 4 Hours of Le Castellet (14-16 July).

Barbadian racer Simpson had a great deal of forward momentum from the outset of the race, as he worked his way up from fifth on the grid to second overall in the first three laps of Circuit Paul Ricard.

From there, he was unleashed, setting fastest laps and taking tenths out of the first-placed #47 COOL Racing machine’s six-second advantage until the lead group stopped for the first time.

Simpson had the legs on all of his opponents and swift work by Algarve Pro’s mechanics ensured the #25 ORECA 07 led with the Platinum-graded Lynn in the hotseat during the second hour.

Lynn’s pace and consistency was such that he edged away from his pursuers, but a Safety Car decimated his six-second lead and a wide moment that damaged the #25 car’s Goodyears necessitated a left-side tyre-change in the following stop, which cost time and track position that he later recovered.

Australia’s Allen was fifth at the beginning of a double stint that would take him to the end of the race but, the last of the lead LMP2 contenders to pit for a splash of fuel, he eventually cycled back up to third on the road and second in class.

Fifteen seconds stood between Algarve Pro and victory with 30 minutes on the clock, but a puncture for the then race-leading #28 car elevated the #25 to second overall with a clear view of Racing Team Turkey in P1 and the third-placed #30 Duqueine Team car also homing in.

Keen not to strain the #25 car’s front-left Goodyear in the intense heat but seeing an opportunity to win the race outright, Algarve Pro instructed Allen to push on.

The top three converged and the race was building to a dramatic crescendo until, with less than seven minutes to go, Allen nosed underneath the #34 ORECA at the final corner, the pair starting the 122nd lap as one.

With the inside line for the first Verrerie curve, Allen completed the overtake at the exit of Turn 2 and duly pulled a gap over his opponents to seal the victory, which follows previous LMP2 and Pro-Am triumphs in the series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as recent successes in the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The Albufeira-based squad now lies second in the ELMS LMP2 Teams and Drivers standings with an eight-point shortfall to Duqueine Team as the series looks forward to its first ever visit to MotorLand Aragon in Spain on 25-26 August.

James Allen (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “The European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Le Castellet was a fun race and we come away with a great result for Algarve Pro Racing. Kyffin’s (Simpson) first stint was amazing and he handed the car to Alex (Lynn) in the lead of the race, which was maintained right through to when I took over during the third hour. We somehow lost track position in the final driver-change, but I fought hard to get back up from fifth to the front before the end.

“There was a lot of tyre management and many teams had failures on the front-left corner, which made it very difficult. However, we were able to get the car to the end in first position and I can’t thank Algarve Pro enough. The strategy, setup and pit stops were all on point, the effort from my teammates Kyffin and Alex was amazing, and I can’t wait to do it all again in Aragon.”

Alex Lynn (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “It has been a fantastic day for Algarve Pro Racing. We always felt we would be competitive in the race and that was the case. Kyffin (Simpson) got us up into the lead, the team had a great first full service and from there we just set about trying to build our advantage. We had good pace to do it, although the Safety Car scuppered that a bit and we had to be really clever on strategy to make sure we got the win we felt we deserved. After my stint, James (Allen) had a fantastic drive under difficult circumstances with high tyre wear, not really knowing how hard we could push. In the end, it was an exciting finish and I’m super proud to be part of the team.”

Kyffin Simpson (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07 LMP2): “I’m proud of what we have accomplished in the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Le Castellet. Alex (Lynn), James (Allen) and the whole Algarve Pro Racing team executed flawlessly. A few things went against us, and it was really quite challenging to keep the tyres alive in the heat, but we stayed focused on our own race. It’s a well-deserved win for the team and it’s nice to bounce back from Barcelona with this one.”

Fred Poordad, Jack Hawksworth and Tristan Vautier in Algarve Pro’s LMP2 Pro-Am entry rounded out the 4 Hours of Le Castellet in 15th overall and eighth in LMP2 Pro-Am.

American Am Poordad made early gains, rising as high as 13th overall and seventh in class during his hour-long stint, but there was plenty of work for Hawksworth and Vautier to do and big gaps to those ahead prevented them from making any significant gains.

Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “The European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Le Castellet was all about management, communicating with the drivers and doing what we thought was best. A wide moment after the mid-race Safety Car damaged the #25’s tyres and we opted to change the left side in the next stop, which briefly lost us the lead, but we knew we had the pace to get back to the front.

“We had to be smart and didn’t want to push too hard, so we nursed the tyres a bit to enable us to push at the end. As a result, we weren’t overly worried when we emerged from the last driver-change in fifth, and we went on to take the win, but I’ll only feel good about it when we win the championship.”

Cox continued: “We’re now in a position to go away and test at MotorLand Aragon, focusing on setups and qualifying performance with one car. The big push from our engineers and mechanics continues in an effort to win the title. We’re all guns blazing because we know we have all the tools available to us to achieve it. I want to thank our mechanics, who did well to build a brand new ORECA for this event after we sold the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning car; spares were shipped from the USA to Portugal two weeks ago and it ran really strongly straight out of the box.”

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