Algarve Pro Racing Team: European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza
Algarve Pro Racing Team battled to seventh and 13th in a dramatic and exciting European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza (11-13 May).
The #31 crew of Ryan Cullen, Harrison Newey and Gustavo Menezes were unfortunate to miss out on a podium result, but possessed great speed and determination to finish in a fighting seventh position.
Mark Patterson, Tacksung Kim and Ate Dirk de Jong, meanwhile, all showed signs of progress at Monza, as the Bronze-graded trio drove quickly and consistently during error-free double stints and received the chequered flag at the end of an incident-packed and topsy-turvy race in 13th position.
- A faultless Friday (11 May) placed Algarve Pro Racing on the front foot for the ELMS 4 Hours of Monza;
- The #31 ORECA 07 ran flawlessly in free practice, enabling Cullen, Newey and Menezes to home in on a strong race balance by the end of FP2 on Saturday (12 May);
- De Jong, Kim and Patterson benefited from an “experimental” day of testing unconventional setups and used free practice to simply refine the #25 Ligier JSP2-17’s setup, with positive results;
- Algarve Pro Racing was consequently in fine fettle heading into qualifying for the ELMS 4 Hours of Monza on Saturday afternoon;
- Menezes recorded a 1m36.034s to qualify third, while de Jong set solid sector times to go 18th.
- Algarve Pro Racing Team started the ELMS 4 Hours of Monza from 16th and 18th;
- An incident-filled first hour featured two Safety Car interventions. Cullen and Patterson climbed to seventh and 13th respectively before the first round of fuel stops;
- Cullen executed opportunistic overtakes on Panis Barthez Competition’s Timothe Buret and High Class Racing’s Dennis Andersen to ultimately rise from 18th to fourth during a stellar double stint;
- Newey and Kim continued their teammates’ good work in the middle phase of the four-hour race;
- Newey took Algarve Pro Racing Team up into the podium positions before refuelling during a well-timed Safety Car intervention and engaging in an enthralling four-way fight for fourth;
- A questionable stewards decision resulted in a drive-through penalty for allegedly passing under Safety Car conditions, but Newey resolutely charged back to ninth before handing the reins to Menezes;
- Kim lapped consistently and was 12th when he passed the #25 Ligier to de Jong;
- There was a lot of movement in the running order as teams implemented a wide array of strategies;
- Menezes snatched sixth from Racing Engineering’s Norman Nato on the 102nd run through the Parabolica;
- Menezes and de Jong were seventh and 12th after the final round of scheduled pit stops;
- A move on Duqueine Engineering’s Nicolas Jamin and unscheduled fuel fills for rival teams meant Menezes finished seventh, within reach of the fight for fifth involving United Autosport’s Wayne Boyd and Racing Engineering’s Norman Nato;
- De Jong drove solidly throughout his stint and finished 13th in the #25 Ligier, which had to be nursed home after sustaining damage in a late collision with an uncooperative and wayward GTE Porsche.
Ryan Cullen (#31 APR-Rebellion Racing ORECA 07): “The European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza weekend started off really well. The ORECA 07 was flawless and we did a lot of setup work, before getting a decent position in qualifying. I started the race and had a good stint, bringing the car up to fourth, which I was delighted with. All three drivers had great pace and Harrison (Newey) climbed from sixth to third and, although a drive-through for an alleged infringement ruined our chances of a podium, that we still managed to finish seventh in this race gives us a lot of optimism for the rest of the season. This was the one that got away. I didn’t think we could win from where we started, but a top three was possible.”
Gustavo Menezes (#31 APR-Rebellion Racing ORECA 07): “This was a weekend where Algarve Pro Racing Team deserved a lot more, because it worked like a 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning team here at Monza – I’m really proud of everybody. The ORECA 07 was mega! We qualified third, but there was definitely more pace in the car and I was unable to extract it because of red-flag stoppages and traffic. Unfortunately, we were sent to the back of the grid for something that was a little out of our control, and that was hard to take.
“Anyhow, we persevered and Algarve Pro’s strategy was incredible, because we got up into the podium places and knew we could fight for the win, but there was a little mix-up when a car pitted as a Safety Car period ended. We were told that we passed it under Safety Car conditions and received a drive-through, which demoted us to P14. It was very rough! I pushed the car and the tyres as hard as I could and, having given my all, I have to be happy to finish seventh. There was nothing more I could do.”
Ate Dirk de Jong (#25 Algarve Pro Racing Team Ligier JSP2-17): “Compared to the opening round of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard, this went so much better than I expected. I thought all of us – Mark (Patterson), Tacksung (Kim) and I – managed traffic very well and lapped at a decent and consistent pace to go as high as 12th. Three laps from the end, I was hit by a Porsche GTE car at Variante del Rettifilo. There was no visible damage, but the steering was askew and I ultimately lost the 12 or so seconds to the car in 13th because I didn’t want to risk a DNF. I think we can be very optimistic for the 24 Hours of Le Mans; if we don’t have mechanical issues or make any mistakes, I think a very good result will be possible.”
Algarve Pro Racing Team moves on to France’s Loire Valley for what is widely regarded as the world’s greatest race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans (16-17 June).