Algarve Pro Racing Team pushed to a double podium finish in the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Buriram at Chang International Circuit in Thailand (6-8 January).
The strength of its performance during two days of testing in the build-up to the four-hour Thai race raised expectations within the Algarve Pro camp, but tyre-warming issues and a relative lack of straight line speed effected the weekend and left the team somewhat baffled.
The heat and humidity steadily increased, but its drivers were unable to replicate the sort of pace they possessed in midweek testing, even with their Ligiers’ rear-wings set at the lowest angle of attack.
An off-track excursion and a spark plug problem in first practice resulted in a 30-minute time loss for Algarve Pro’s #25 entry, but the team recovered well and a time of 1m28.443s was enough for Andrea Pizzitola to seal a front row starting position, ahead of the sister #24 Judd-powered car in third.
However, a red flag stoppage had frustrated the team’s qualifying efforts, as it required more time to generate sufficient tyre temperature to compete for pole and match its best time from 2016 when it went some six tenths of a second faster.
In the 4 Hours of Buriram itself, the #24 Ligier of Michael Munemann, Tacksung Kim and Mark Patterson ran faultlessly, each driver completing strong and uneventful stints en route to the third step of the podium.
Andrea Roda, meanwhile, vaulted off the start line in the #25 and initially looked to have the edge over Jackie Chan DC Racing, until the rival ORECA 03R cruised past on the charge to the braking zone for Turn 1.
Nevertheless, Roda was satisfied that he had squeezed every ounce of performance from the car before handing the reins to Matthew McMurry, who turned in a strong double stint prior to Pizzitola’s return to the cockpit.
The Italian, solely focused on closing down the leading DC Racing entry in the hands of Gustavo Menezes, performed admirably and once again received the chequered flag in second position overall to keep the championship wide open with one round of the 2016-17 Asian LMS to run at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia (20-22 January).
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “We’ve completed three Asian Le Mans races and both cars have finished, so we’ve proven that the team runs reliable cars and that’s hugely important in endurance racing. We didn’t have the pace to challenge for victory in Buriram or match the times set in testing and that’s disappointing. We couldn’t take enough rear wing off the car or generate tyre temperature quickly enough, therefore we lost time in sector one of the lap and the red flag stoppage in qualifying really hurt us.
“We didn’t see a drop in straight line speed with the Judd-engined #24 car, but the Nissan in the #25 didn’t seem to be pulling as much, so we must investigate that before Malaysia. Nevertheless, we had absolutely no problems with the #24 and all three drivers were delighted with how the week went, from the start of testing to the race. It was a great performance from a bunch of guys with a combined age of 152! Ultimately, the championship is still wide open and we’re already looking ahead to the finale at Sepang.”