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algarve pro racing

Champion Algarve Pro team kicks off ELMS title defence with P2 in Barcelona

Algarve Pro Racing opened its European Le Mans Series (ELMS) title defence with a second-place finish in the 4 Hours of Barcelona (12-14 April).

The Portugal-flagged squad qualified third and kept itself in the thick of the fight for victory with Matthias Kaiser, Olli Caldwell and Alex Lynn, who eventually took points for P2 overall at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

In addition to that, Kriton Lendoudis on his LMP2 debut, Richard Bradley and Alex Quinn were agonisingly close to the LMP2 Pro-Am podium in a highly respectable fourth place that sets the #20 trio up for a strong 2024 season.

There was no change at the very front of the field away from the start of the 4 Hours of Barcelona, Algarve Pro’s Kaiser maintaining third position after briefly featuring in P2 through the first sequence of corners.

The field-spread was relatively high and the Liechtenstein driver became detached from the top two with his mirrors full of the #43 Inter Europol Competition, which got the jump when Kaiser lost momentum in avoidance of an incident.

However, Algarve Pro saw an opportunity to undercut opponents by fitting fresh Goodyear tyres while switching Kaiser for Caldwell during one of the many neutralisations that punctuated the opening hour.

British driver Caldwell was plugged in to the #25 ORECA 07-Gibson for the middle phase of the race, and a forceful move for position fresh out of the pits marked the beginning of a hard charge that saw him rise to P1.

On a tear but with a keen eye on tyre management, Caldwell kept the race-leading #37 COOL Racing honest and gapped his chasers until lap 79, when he pounced for the lead.

It was an skilful overtake and, having nursed his Goodyears supremely well, the Algarve Pro driver was able to draw away, although a difference in the lead squads’ fuel strategies meant the order was reversed in the next routine stops.

A longer hold cost the Portuguese team track position, but Lynn’s pace was hot, he was masterful through traffic and eventually went toe-to-toe with the driver in the #37 machine.

However, an error counting down to the end of an FCY cost Algarve Pro approximately nine seconds, and there was little that could be done to bridge the extended gap for the win.

In fact, the focus turned rearward to the fast-moving #22 United Autosports car that had taken on two new tyres in a cheap FCY pit stop, but the threat diminished and second place went the way of Lynn, Caldwell and Kaiser.

Matthias Kaiser (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “Given the high level of competition in the European Le Mans Series, second place in the 4 Hours of Barcelona is a strong result. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity because we led the race at certain points and the win was within reach, but we already have one eye on the LMP2 championship and we stand a good chance if we continue maximising our points in this way. There were plenty of strong teams with first-class driver line-ups who didn’t show well in Barcelona, but we can’t discount them in the future. We will be vying for victory again but I expect to see lots of different winners this season.”

Olli Caldwell (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “It’s my first race weekend with Algarve Pro Racing and we have come away with a second-place result, which is fantastic when the competition in the European Le Mans Series is possibly stronger than ever. It’s always frustrating to be so close to victory, but we have to keep our heads held high, look at the fine details and continue pushing for these kind of results that will put us in a position to win the 2024 titles.”

Alex Lynn (#25 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I’m really proud of how the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Barcelona went. We had a strong and clean weekend, qualifying third and finishing the race second. Of course, the win was within sight, but the main aim was to kick off our title defence well with the right result, and we can be positive about what we did in Barcelona. Now it’s about regrouping and refocusing on what we can improve in readiness for Le Castellet.”

In LMP2 Pro-Am, Lendoudis started seventh and stood his ground, even after a Safety Car and a series of FCYs, which prompted earlier-than-scheduled pit stops from practically every team on the 43-car grid.

A clean, solid stint from LMP2 debutant Lendoudis preceded Bradley’s first race appearance, during which he made headway into the top half of the class while saving tyres and fuel so Quinn would be well-placed for his dash to the finish.

The young Brit duly continued the good work, as he cycled up to fourth and got to within 1.5 seconds of the #24 Nielsen Racing car that held the final podium spot as the race reached its conclusion.

Kriton Lendoudis (#20 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “It was my first LMP2 race in the European Le Mans Series. I wasn’t overawed by the situation because of the absolutely professional support I received from Algarve Pro Racing. I was initially a little cautious but soon settled into a rhythm. We had a few FCYs, the pit stops went superbly well and I handed the car to Richard (Bradley) in sixth. He and Alex (Quinn) got us up to fourth, which is a great result considering my lack of experience. I’m very impressed with APR and its professionalism.”

Richard Bradley (#20 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “Kriton (Lendoudis) did a really good job during what was his first ever LMP2 race, bringing the car back in one piece around where he started. My stint was all about managing tyres and fuel to get the car in a good place for when Alex (Quinn) took over. Tyre degradation was high, but my efforts and Algarve Pro’s strategy were quite effective, because we gained time and places. In truth, if anybody had offered us fourth place before the race, we would have taken it. We’ve laid good foundations and can only get better from here.”

Alex Quinn (#20 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “It has been a very challenging week with a lot to learn, but we’ve all made progress and having so much pace in the car really helped us move forward. We have to be satisfied with fourth in LMP2 Pro-Am. It’s slightly frustrating to be so close to the podium, but I’m happy with my stint and with what Algarve Pro provided, as the car was quick, strategy was on point and there were no mistakes.”

Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “Second position in the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Barcelona is a good result that sets a solid foundation for our title defence. Algarve Pro is a championship-winning team with the chance to defend its titles and we will be working to ensure all drivers see the opportunity they have, giving them the right mentality and approach going forwards. Olli Caldwell’s drive in the middle phase of the race was particularly exceptional, as he managed the tyres like a pro and was able to push to the end of his stint, and get the lead.

“We had a fuel disadvantage with the #25 car due to a strategic choice, and a small mistake on an FCY countdown scuppered our chances of winning. We also stayed out a lap longer than COOL Racing, which we knew required less fuel, when we should have boxed on same lap in hindsight.”

Cox continued: “The Pro-Am podium is definitely in reach for the #20 crew going forward and it was a shame they didn’t make it this weekend. Kriton (Lendoudis) performed well and to finish fourth in first race in an LMP2 car against drivers who have multiple seasons under their belts is remarkable. Richard (Bradley) then did exactly what you’d expect and Alex (Quinn) was superb. The fact is, both sets of drivers did a good job.”

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