G-Drive Racing by Algarve reinforced its bid for the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series title, as a flawless performance resulted in victory at The Bend Motorsport Park (10-12 January).
Strong and feisty drives by James French, Leonard Hoogenboom and Roman Rusinov and inspired strategic calls kept the Russian-Portuguese effort in the fight, and this second win of the 2019-20 season has extended the team’s championship lead with two rounds remaining.
Rain struck Tailem Bend and disrupted testing on Friday (10 January), but conditions dried out to ensure drivers gained experience of the 7.7km circuit during the afternoon FP1 session;
G-Drive Racing by Algarve went third fastest in FP1 with a 2m38s lap but topped the FP2 classification on a 2m35.418s;
In Qualifying, the length of The Bend Motorsport Park’s lap and a red flag meant drivers had a very narrow window in which to bid for pole position;
Rusinov’s first qualifying effort put him fourth overall, but a 2m36.711s promoted G-Drive Racing by Algarve to an eventual third place;
A busy, but clean start to the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of The Bend helped G-Drive Racing by Algarve maintain third place on lap one;
French valiantly tried to unseat the pole-sitting Thunderhead Carlin Racing entry from second place during the opening exchanges, filling the mirrors of the Dallara P217 while locked in a tense five-way fight for first;
G-Drive Racing by Algarve chose to box in tandem with the lead #1 Eurasia Motorsport entry during an early Full Course Yellow (FCY), in an attempt to minimise the time-loss. French stayed at the wheel of the #26 AURUS 01 and was a keen threat for P1 after the stops;
The team made use of a second FCY to switch French for Hoogenboom. A Safety Car followed, and the young Dutchman pounced for P1 at the resumption of racing;
Hoogenboom attempted to stretch his legs, but the #1 entry driven by a hard-charging Shane van Gisbergen arrived on the scene to launch an enthralling dogfight;
Hoogenboom kept his composure under immense pressure and defended aggressively against the Australian V8 Supercars star to retain first place, before coming in for a full service under a third FCY;
G-Drive Racing by Algarve lost track position in the stops, but Hoogenboom produced team-best lap times in the 2m40s to stay within striking distance, and he led while managing a slow puncture entering the fourth hour;
In the final driver-change, Hoogenboom gave way to Rusinov, who emerged from the pits with an eight-second lead over the #1 car, with only a splash-and-dash required to reach the chequered flag;
A full-blown battle for the win ensued; traffic played its part and Rusinov briefly relinquished the lead but retaliated with a gutsy move past the #1 Eurasia car, before nailing down his advantage with more decisive overtakes on lapped runners;
Significantly, G-Drive Racing by Algarve conducted its final splash-and-dash during a FCY to retain a healthy lead and extinguish the threat from behind;
Rusinov was able to cruise home to a second win of the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series and extend G-Drive Racing by Algarve’s championship lead at the halfway point of the season.
James French (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01): “I’ve had a fantastic time out here in South Australia, and The Bend Motorsport Park is an unreal circuit – it’s been amazing to drive the AURUS 01 here. Everybody at Algarve Pro Racing has done a fantastic job and I’m delighted with the result. It was a tough race for everybody, especially when it came to managing traffic, but we all did well to keep the car in one piece and stay out of trouble, and the team’s strategy was also on point. We’re now in a great position in the championship, but there’s still a long way to go with two races remaining.”
Leonard Hoogenboom (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01): “My stint wasn’t so simple, but everybody within the team, including James (French) and Roman (Rusinov) did a good job. The first half of my stint was spent on old tyres and that made it difficult, but I enjoyed defending like crazy as the Eurasia car got closer. I took on new tyres for the second part of my stint, which was effected by a slow puncture. Other than that, it was a perfect race and I’m very pleased to have reached the top step of the Asian Le Mans Series podium here at The Bend Motorsport Park.”
Roman Rusinov (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01): “It was a hard but enjoyable race and we won, which was always the goal. It was important for G-Drive to win, especially here in Australia. The Bend Motorsport Park was a difficult track for us, but G-Drive Racing by Algarve and my teammates, James (French) and Leonard (Hoogenboom), did a great job. The key was tyre management and making the right strategy calls, and we did an incredible job there. The result is in the bag and we have more of a lead in the championship. Of course, we have two more races to go, but I’d like to say thank you to AURUS and the team for their efforts and I know we can do even better going forward.”