G-Drive Racing operated by Algarve Pro Racing reached the conclusion of the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans (14-15 August) seventh in LMP2 and 12th overall.
Nyck de Vries, Franco Colapinto and Roman Rusinov recovered well from early misfortune that took them out of contention for LMP2 honours with the #26 Aurus 01 Gibson, battling back from 19th to seventh in the definitive classification.
Rain fell before the 16:00 start on Saturday (21 August) afternoon, so intermediate tyres were fitted to both the #26 and #25 Aurus 01 LMP2s and officials elected to begin the race behind the Safety Car.
After three familiarisation laps, the 61-strong Le Mans field was released, and FIA Formula E World Champion De Vries in the #26 and Roberto Merhi in the #25 Pro-Am entry pressed on from fourth and 18th in the LMP2 starting order respectively.
Grip was at a premium and there was contact and spins aplenty, but G-Drive Racing initially kept its nose clean as ambient and track conditions stabilised.
De Vries slipped up to P2, keeping pace with the class-leading #38 JOTA car during a marathon stint that took him into the third hour, but the #26 had spells at the head of the LMP2 classification with Colapinto aboard.
However, a collision with the #1 Richard Mille Racing entry necessitated a 25-minute repair stop to the #26 G-Drive machine’s front-end, engine cover and right-rear uprights, leaving the crew with a four-lap deficit to the frontrunners.
Rusinov began the recovery, rising from 19th to 17th during his first race stint, and De Vries was 14th when he passed the car to Argentina’s Colapinto, who picked up the baton and ran at a comparable pace to draw in towards 13th place.
The trio crept back into the top ten as the sun rose on Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday morning (22 August), De Vries setting LMP2-best lap times to solidify a top seven result, which Rusinov consolidated with a strong final stint.
Elsewhere, G-Drive Racing by APR’s #25 Pro-Am entry for Merhi, John Falb and Rui Andrade fared less well.
Merhi initially worked his way up from 18th to the top ten but dropped the #25 car into the gravel soon after taking on slick tyres, tumbling to the tail end of the field.
However, Bronze-graded teammate Falb dragged the crew back up from 23rd to 12th, even though random bursts of precipitation made for a tricky stint, which featured a spin at the Ford Chicane and an unscheduled stop for intermediates.
Mercifully, conditions had stabilised by the time Andrade took the reins, but the young Angolan hit the wall at high-speed just before the strike of midnight, ending the #25 crew’s race right there and then.
Nyck de Vries (#26 G-Drive Racing operated by APR Aurus 01 LMP2): “It all started so well. We had a good first stint in very tricky conditions and gained places to get well into the battle for a podium or even a win. Our pace was strong all race long and there’s no doubt we had the potential to take the fight to all the other teams for the 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 victory. Franco (Colapinto) did a great job when he got in the car immediately after me, but then came the contact with someone who braked too quickly for a slow zone. After sustaining damage, it was about survival rather than racing for a meaningful position, which is frustrating, but this is the 24 Hours of Le Mans and it’s more often about having a clean race than outright speed.”
Roman Rusinov (#26 G-Drive Racing operated by APR Aurus 01 LMP2): “Our 24 Hours of Le Mans was determined by the crash involving Franco (Colapinto) at the beginning because we lost 25 minutes repairing the car and there’s very little you can do from there. Even though the car was fast and the G-Drive Racing operated by Algarve Pro Racing team did a good job, we couldn’t recover the time we lost. I believe we would have been leading by a long way – we proved we’re quick. Nevertheless, I had some nice battles, including one in my last stint with Rene Binder, but it’s frustrating to have not fulfilled our potential.”
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “The result is disappointing, in all honesty. We built and prepared two great cars that were 100 per cent capable of reaching the end of the race without any gremlins. We had no issues at all during the build-up, the teamwork was mega, our pit stops went really well and everybody gelled perfectly. We were racing up at the front with JOTA at the beginning, but we were unlucky with what happened to Franco (Colapinto) entering the slow zone; you get punished for any time-loss here at Le Mans, so the 25-minute repair stop basically took us out of the running for a podium result with the #26 car. I’m seriously proud of the team, because they were faultless – absolutely everything went to plan – and they did all they could to ensure our drivers had the tools and support they need to reach their potential.”