For a team that suffered from a series of unfortunate events in the 4 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard last weekend (17-19 July), Algarve Pro Racing still fought hard to bring the #24 Oreca 07 LMP2 car home in sixth position overall in the European Le Mans Series opener.
The two days of official testing (14-15 July) were primarily used by the team getting to know the new-for-2020 Goodyear tyres, and consecutive race runs suggested the three drivers, Jon Lancaster, Henning Enqvist and Loic Duval would be able to push harder than their Michelin-shod rivals across a double stint.
Clouds rolled in during the build-up to LMP2 Qualifying, but temperatures held up with Duval in #24 ending the quickfire session in eighth, recording a best lap time of 1m39.4s.
British driver Lancaster kept his nose clean and ascended from eighth to fourth during the first hour, stretching his advantage over an intense five-way fight for fifth. An impressively quick turnaround in the first pit stop put him directly behind the third-placed #26 G-Drive Racing car of Roman Rusinov. Unfortunately though, a front-left puncture forced Lancaster back to the pits for an unscheduled stop where Enqvist took over driving duties.
A Safety Car intervention then bunched up the field, and the #24 Algarve Pro machine ended up with the main LMP2 pack in ninth position. On the run to the chequered flag, Duval showed his class by getting close to the fastest lap of the race in the 1m40s, defending against an impending attack from Inter Europol Competition and claiming eighth position as he crossed the finish line. An investigation into other drivers led to disqualifications and penalties which in turn raised the team’s final position to sixth.
“It’s a bittersweet result because our pace was very promising and I had a comfortable margin over the car that ultimately finished second, and we were just very unlucky to sustain a puncture that cost us a lot of time.” Said Lancaster.
“Testing was positive, as we improved everyday with only a few small things to sort out to understand the new Goodyear tyres. My teammates and I all used the time to blow away the cobwebs and we showed in the race that we can definitely fight for podiums this season, which is exciting.”
The next race in the 2020 European Le Mans Series season is the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on August 9.