G-Drive Racing by Algarve was declared the winner of the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Shanghai with Roman Rusinov, James French and Leonard Hoogenboom (22-24 November).
Stewards awarded Thunderhead Carlin Racing a post-race penalty for exceeding the maximum driving time, promoting the #26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01 to first place in the definitive classification.
In Private Testing, G-Drive Racing by Algarve completed 33 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit and finished second on a 1m53.775s, with a four tenths deficit to Carlin Racing;
The Russian-Portuguese effort was sixth at the conclusion of Friday practice, but featured highly in the rain-affected FP2 session on Saturday morning, topping the times with a 1m54.003s;
The track had been slippery throughout free practice, but Rusinov found grip to grab provisional pole in LMP2 Qualifying;
The Russian racer recorded a 1m53.410s on his first flyer, but was resigned to third on the 4 Hours of Shanghai grid when traffic spoiled what was set to be his best lap;
It was a neat and tidy start to the race, and it looked as though the LMP2 Pro field would remain in qualifying order until an opportunistic French snatched P2 from the #45 Carlin Racing Dallara at the exit of Turn 3;
G-Drive Racing by Algarve’s gap to the race-leading #36 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier initially increased, but the pace eventually equalised and supreme traffic management helped French shrink the deficit and extend his advantage over the chasing pack at the same time;
The lead fight moved into pit lane as the frontrunning LMP2 Pro entries synchronised their first stops on lap 22;
In the battle of the pit crews, G-Drive Racing by Algarve came out on top, the Russian-Portuguese squad gaining six seconds and vaulting ahead of Eurasia Motorsport to take first position overall;
G-Drive Racing by Algarve fell back to second as tyre wear became an issue during the latter stages of French’s stint, which ended after 45 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit;
The start of Hoogenboom’s stint was dominated by Full Course Yellows and Safety Cars and the top three in LMP2 Pro ran line astern;
The order shifted at the resumption of racing, and while G-Drive Racing by Algarve initially held second position, Hoogenboom kept up the pressure and got the better of the #36 Eurasia machine in the fight for P1;
Hoogenboom stretched his legs to edge out an advantage on the run to the final driver-change on lap 73 when Rusinov took the wheel of the #26 AURUS 01 Gibson;
The fight for the Asian Le Mans 4 Hours of Shanghai victory was fierce on the sprint to the chequered flag. Rusinov had a diminishing six-second lead over the #45 Carlin entry and did well to soak up the pressure, only losing the initiative among uncooperative lapped traffic;
The LMP2 leaders all stopped one last time during the final hour and efficient work in the pits ensured the #26 AURUS reassumed the lead with 20 minutes remaining;
Rusinov kept it clean and tidy with the Carlin car hot on his heels, and the tension was palpable as the leading pair entered the final lap with only four tenths of a second between them;
They continued running nose-to-tail, but traffic was the deciding factor and a yellow flag while approaching a lapped car caused enough of a delay for Carlin to sweep past and steal P1;
A post-race stewards’ inquiry into Thunderhead Carlin Racing’s driving time resulted in a penalty that promoted G-Drive Racing by Algarve to first place in the final classification.
Roman Rusinov (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01 Gibson): “It’s not the way we wanted to win it, but rules are rules and this is a fair decision. It’s good that we got the points and I’m happy to have won on my first appearance in the Asian Le Mans Series. The top three LMP2 Pro cars were really close throughout the race and it was exciting that the fight for victory went to the last lap. Traffic was the limiting factor, as I was unwilling to make any risky moves, especially on the last lap when I could have been hit with a penalty if I had passed a lapped car under yellow flags. Next time, I’d prefer to win the race on the track, but I’m happy with the outcome.”
James French (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01 Gibson): “It was an extremely close four-hour battle and the fact it came down to three tenths of a second was extremely exciting. It’s my first time in China and it has been an incredible experience; I’m still getting my head around the scale of Shanghai and the racetrack is amazing, as it has a really good flow to it.
“Everybody at G-Drive Racing by Algarve did a fantastic job, crushing the pit stops to repeatedly get us out in the lead, and everything seemed to go to plan. I sacrificed a bit of performance at the start of the race to finish strongly, because Roman (Rusinov) made it clear that regardless of what you do, it’s impossible to save the rear tyres. As a result, my combined stints were good, especially as there were no mistakes, contact or lockups. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my Asian Le Mans experience so far and the result in Shanghai is certainly a good starting point for a strong campaign.”
Leonard Hoogenboom (#26 G-Drive Racing by Algarve AURUS 01 Gibson): “Winning our first race in the Asian Le Mans Series on an unfamiliar circuit is a really good result. Roman (Rusinov) and James (French) were great, I feel my stint was good and the AURUS 01 was very fast throughout the weekend. I like these long-distance races and I’ve enjoyed my first experience in Asia, especially as it provided a big challenge. The fact the competition is so tough only makes the victory better.”