Algarve Pro Racing have claimed a dominant win in the final race of the 2023 / 2024 Asian Le Mans Series, finishing over a minute ahead of the #22 Proton Competition entry, with the #30 Duqueine Team finishing 3rd.
After a chaotic race yesterday, Race 5 at the Yas Marina Circuit began in similar fashion. The track was declared wet after significant rain throughout the day, and as the clock ticked down towards the 4pm race start, the lights were already on around the track.
Before a lap had been completed, there was a significant incident with the Championship leading #4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR Oreca 07 – Gibson George Kurtz spun, he was able to rejoin but was well down the order. The #83 AF Corse Oreca 07 – Gibson being driven by Francois Perrodo was also involved. He was also able to get going again but the accident had caused a puncture and whilst returning to the pits the car suffered significant body damage leaving debris on the track. It made it back to the pits but was pushed back into the garage. They were able to re-join the race, but were 3 laps down.
The #47 COOL Racing LMP2 was also involved, but a quick trip to the pits and they returned to the track. The pole sitting #9 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO was not so lucky, they made contact with the #58 GG Classic Cars Ligier JS P320 – Nissan. The #9 was out immediately and while the #58 made it back to the pits, it too was pushed into the garage.
The safety car was deployed and when racing resumed it was the #90 TF Sport driven by Salih Yoluc leading the way from John Falb in the #30 Duqueine Team and the #22 Proton Competition with Giorgio Roda behind the wheel in 3rd. After 30 minutes, the #4 had progressed to 9th in the LMP2 class.
In LMP3, it was the #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 – Nissan of Alex Bukhantsov pulling away out in front once again. Most impressive was the pace of the #65 Viper Niza entry being driven by their pro driver Dominic Ang who made his from last in class, to be in second place.
In GT it was the #7 Al Manar Racing by GetSpeed – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo with Anthony Liu driving, leading the #91 Pure Rxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R being driven by Alex Malykhin. As they have been for much of the UAE races, the pair were locked in a tight battle.
Just before the end of the first hour the race a heavy accident between the #55 Proton Competition of Paul Loup Chatin and the #8 EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R of Johanes Setiawan Santoso saw the race red flagged for almost an hour.
In what would turn out to be significant moment in the race, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca 07 – Gibson pitted from the lead to refuel just as the red flag was shown. When the race restarted, they were sent out ahead of the s/c to join the rear of the pack. As the #25 was still effectively leading the race, the entire field was then given a wave around.
Once the race was restarted, the battles were intense in all three classes.
With 90 mins to go, the rain returned, not heavy enough for wet tyres, but enough to make the track very slippery. The fight for the GT class win was intensifying with wheel-to-wheel battles throughout the field. After being pulled behind the barrier on the formation lap with an issue, the #27 Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 Ollie Millroy had made their way to the front of the field and was pulling out a lead from the #88 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO with Luca Stolz behind the wheel.
One hour to go and things in LMP2 appeared to have settled into a rhythm, with the #25 being driven by Toby Sowery leading comfortably, with the #3 DKR Engineering of Tom Dillmann in 2nd and #30 Duqueine Team of Carl Wattana Bennett in 3rd. In LMP3, Series newcomers Bretton Racing were leading the way from the #20 High Class Racing with Seth Lucas behind the wheel.
In the closing stages of the race, last minute pitstops and pitlane penalties saw changes in both the LMP2 and LMP3 classes.
The result was a comfortable win for the #25 Algarve Pro Racing team.
The impact was significant for the #2 CD Sport team however as a drive through penalty dropped them to 3rd, behind the #17 COOL Racing entry – a result that was enough to seal the Championship victory for COOL Racing.
In GT the #19 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO 2 crossed the line to take the victory but a post-race penalty for a driving time infringement handed the win to the #88 Triple Eight entry, with Championship winners Pure Rxcing finishing 2nd.
With race wins in Sepang and in yesterday’s race, 7th place for the #4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR team was enough to secure them the 2023 / 2024 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Championship title.
LMP2: #25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca 07 – Gibson: Chris McMurry, Freddie Tomlinson and Toby Sowery
LMP3: #26 Bretton Racing Ligier JS P320 Nissan: Dan Skocdopole, Julien Gerbi & Mihnea Stefan
GT: #88 Triple Eight Mercedes-AMG GT3 EVO: HH Prince Ibrahim, Luca Stolz and Jordan Love
Champions of the 2023 / 2024 Asian Le Mans Series
The success makes Algarve Pro Racing a four-time Asian Le Mans LMP2 title-winner, adding to the championships achieved in 2016-17, 2019-20 and 2021, as well as the ‘Gentleman’s Trophy’ it won in 2017-18.
The Portugal-based squad has subsequently earned another automatic invitation to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (15-16 June), having already been awarded an entry for winning the European Le Mans Series, shortly after taking Kurtz to IMSA’s Jim Trueman Bronze Cup in 2023.
CrowdStrike Racing by APR brought itself back into championship contention by converting a strategic masterstroke into victory in Saturday’s red flag-affected 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi, before sealing the championship with a fifth-place result in Sunday’s season finale at Yas Marina Circuit.
However, Algarve Pro wrapped up the 2023-24 campaign on the top step of the winners’ rostrum, the #25 crew of McMurry, Tomlinson and Sowery dominating their high-calibre, super-experienced LMP2 opposition.
In the first 240-minute race at Yas Marina, CrowdStrike Racing’s Kurtz rose from fifth to third and Algarve Pro’s McMurry from tenth to seventh during an opening lap that threw the 2023-24 title fight wide open, as it featured a spin for the championship leader.
Later, a rotation at Turn 14 dropped the #4 ORECA 07-Gibson off the lead lap, but Kurtz crept forward until the completion of his stint, and further progress was made when Braun was installed during a timely second-hour Safety Car.
The American Pro’s first task was to lift CrowdStrike Racing back onto the lead lap and, consistently the fastest driver on-track, he succeeded in his mission before giving way to teammate Jakobsen.
The young Dane had climbed to third when the race was red-flagged with a little over an hour on the clock, but then followed a strategic masterstroke.
The #4 was summoned to pit lane for an emergency service and took on the maximum five-second allowance of fuel while the field continued circulating at a reduced speed behind the Safety Car, saving masses of time and shortening its final refill, executed the next time around as green-flag racing resumed.
As a consequence, CrowdStrike Racing by APR vaulted the opposition, and Jakobsen then broke his pursuers’ spirits, maintaining a lead of more than ten seconds on well-worn tyres to close out a masterful victory.
The triumph gave the squad a four-point buffer at the top of the standings, but it was all to play for with five teams still in contention for the LMP2 crowns entering the second 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi on Sunday (11 February).
Unfortunately, in an attacking start to the title-deciding race, Kurtz got pinched between Turns 1 and 2 and span to the tail end of the field.
Mercifully, the #4 car was able to continue on, and winning the title was still the core objective, especially as misfortune had also befallen other key protagonists.
CrowdStrike Racing was soon back up in the points-paying positions and ahead of main title challenger, 99 Racing, which was consistently slower and steadily dropped away.
A red flag lasting more than an hour preceded an emergency service for fuel, which hurt the #4 crew’s progress, but Braun made short work of climbing the leaderboard, tightening the team’s grip on the championship as he went.
Fifth entering the final hour, Jakobsen’s only task was to conserve the car and close out the season, and a P5 finish was sufficient to secure a maiden Asian Le Mans Series title for CrowdStrike Racing, and the fourth in Algarve Pro’s illustrious history.
George Kurtz (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “It feels fantastic to win the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. All credit to the CrowdStrike Racing by APR team, Colin (Braun) and Malthe (Jakobsen). There were so many ups and downs and to get the job done in the way we did, overcoming a lot of adversity, speaks volumes. ‘Never give up’ is the line of the week because we were in some precarious positions, we managed to work through them and come away with a race win and championships.
Colin Braun (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I’m super-pumped to have won the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. It’s huge for CrowdStrike Racing by APR and I’m really proud of everyone’s efforts throughout this campaign. All of the tracks were new to me and George (Kurtz) and there was a lot to take in, but we all did a great job, we never gave up during the uncertain times, there was some great work in the pits and the team put all the pieces of the puzzle together to win the big prize.”
Malthe Jakobsen (#4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “I’m super happy to have been part of CrowdStrike Racing by APR. It has been fun, we’ve had some good races together, and we did the best we could as a team to win the 2023-24 Asian Le Mans Series. It was tougher than expected at times, but we stayed clean and won the championship. That’s what’s most important.”
LMP2: #4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR Oreca 07 Gibson – George Kurtz, Colin Braun & Malthe Jakobsen
LMP3: #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 Nissan – Alexander Bukhantsov & James Winslow
GT: #91 Pure Rxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R – Alex Malykhin, Klaus Bachler & Joel Sturm