Sunday, 9 December 2018

Asian LMS: Victory for Algarve Pro Racing in Fuji

With very light snow falling as the grid formed up for the second round of the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series, the race was set to be run in very frosty conditions. The action on track however was hot right from the start!

2016/17 Champions Algarve Pro Racing are back to their winning ways, with current drivers Andrea Pizzitola and Harrison Newey claiming a hard fought victory in the 4 Hours of Fuji. 

Starting the race in the #24 Ligier JS P2 Judd, Harrison Newey took the lead into the first corner. He held the lead until a well-timed pit call from the United Autosports team saw the pole sitting #22 Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Phil Hanson behind the wheel get the jump on the #24. 

The battle between the pair continued throughout the race before a safety car period with just 30 minutes to go bunched the field up. At the restart the #24 with Andrea Pizzitola behind the wheel was just in front of Paul Di Resta in the #22 and the battle just intensified. It was Andrea and Algarve Pro Racing that held on to claim the victory, with Paul and United Autosports team in second.  

In third place, and taking the win in LMP2 Am was ARC Bratislava in a impressive comeback drive. Early in the race the #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2 dropped back after an incident saw Miro Konopka tangle with another competitor. Ling Kang put in a solid middle stint to help the team climb up the order. After the safety car, and with Darren Burke driving, they closed the gap to the class leading #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan. After another tight battle, Darren caught and passed the #23 to claim 3rd place outright and the LMP2 Am trophy win. 

In LMP3, just as in the Agile 4 Hours of Shanghai, it was the #65 Viper Niza Racing Ligier JS P3 of Nigel Moore that got the jump on the field again, running as high as 3rd outright in the opening stages of the race.

Ultimately the battle for the LMP3 class victory came down to the final moments of the race. After leading the class towards the end of the race thanks to a well-timed pitstop to change to slick tyres, the safety car proved to be poorly timed for Martin Hippe in the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3. After the race resumed, he had the #3 United Autorsports Ligier JS P3 of Kay van Berlo right on his tail. The battle between the two once the racing resumed was tight, with Kay getting the jump early, but Martin refused to give up, fighting for the position until the end of the race. 

In the end it was Kay that took the victory by just 3.5 seconds, with Martin taking second. In third place was the #79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing of Antony Wells and Colin Noble. The pair put in a very strong effort to come back from starting at the rear of the grid to claim the final place on the LMP3 podium.

Hometown heroes, Car Guy claimed a very popular victory in front of the Japanese fans in their #11 Ferrari 488 GT3. After contact in the opening stages of the race, the team made an unscheduled pitstop, dropping them well behind the GT field.  Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado all drove strongly during the race, ensuring Car Guy claimed their second GT class victory from the opening two Asian Le Mans Series races. 

In second place was the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ozz Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti. They also had a challenging opening phase of the race after dropping to the back of the order, before fighting their way back, making their second place all the more impressive. 

In third place was the #66 Tian Shi Racing Team, Audi R8 LMS of Xu Wei, Max Wiser and Zhang Ya Qi. They were also the top GT Am entry.

The Asian Le Mans Series now has a month’s break now before the teams head to Thailand for the 4 Hours of Buriram on 12 January, 2019. The race there will be held on the Saturday to coincide with the very popular Children’s Day in Thailand.  

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Le Mans: 2019 Entry list to be announced in two stages

Next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the grand finale of the FIA WEC 2018-19 Super Season and the culmination of the championship from now on. The names of the teams to line up on the grid – sixty slots plus ten reserves –will be announced in two stages, on 11th February and 1st March 2019. 

The Super Season is the reason for the change in announcement of entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019, the culmination of the 2018-2019 season which started this May in Spa, paid a first visit to Le Mans on 16/17th June before races at Silverstone, Fuji and Shanghai in 2018. As the calendar turns to 2019, the championship will also be visiting Sebring and Spa once again, before concluding in the Sarthe region of France.

Among the 60 competitors will be the full-season entrants of the WEC, plus the traditional recipients of invitations given to reward championship results in the European Le Mans Series (4), the Michelin Le Mans Cup (1), the Asian Le Mans Series (4), the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (2), and of course at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2018.

Teams wishing to take up one of the remaining places on the 2019 Le Mans grid will be able to apply from 20th December until 31st January 2019. 

The ACO will announce first fifty teams on 11th February, followed by another ten teams on the grid and ten reserve teams on 1st March. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Asian LMS: Spirit of Race wins 4 Hours of Shanghai

The 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series opener has delivered a thrilling race, with the win being fought for right up until the chequered flag.  Ultimately it was polesitter Pipo Derani in the Spirit of Race Ligier JS P2 that crossed the line first to claim victory alongside his teammates Côme Ledogar and Alexander West. 

Series newcomers United Autosports finished 2nd with Paul Di Resta behind the wheel of the #22 Ligier JS P2 he shared with Phil Hanson. Both teams did it the hard way after they made light contact on the opening lap causing both to drop back down the order. 

Another front runner to hit trouble early was the #24 Ligier JS P2 Algarve Pro Racing being driven by Andrea Pizzitola. While leading the race, Pizzitola pulled off the track with a terminal engine issue.

Having a more successful day was the second LMP2 car from United Autosports, the #23 Ligier JS P2 raced by Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Salih Yoluc finished 3rdoutright, also claiming the win in the LMP2 AM Trophy class. ARC Bratislava finished 4th outright and 2nd in the LMP2 AM Trophy class with team owner Miro Konopka joined by Ling King and Darren Burke in their #4 Ligier JS P2. The third LMP2 AM entry, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan driven by Mark Patterson, Anders Fjordbach and Christopher McMurry finished 5th outright and third in class.

© Inter Europol Competition

In LMP3, pole sitters Inter Europol claimed the victory in their first Asian Le Mans Series race with Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe sharing duties in the #13 Ligier JS P3. The first of the two United Autosports Ligier JS P3s, piloted by Chris Buncombe, Garret Grist and Wayne Boyd finished 2nd. Eurasia Motorsport claimed the final place on the podium thanks to a solid drive from Aidan Read and Nobuya Yamanaka in the #36 Ligier JS P3.

The battle for the race victory in GT was drama filled. The race was won by Japanese newcomers Car Guy in the team’s first race in their new Ferrari 488 GT3. The #11 Ferrari was raced by Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado. Making it a Ferrari 1-2, the Spirit of Race #51 Ferrari 488 GT3 piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Francesco Piovanetti and Oswaldo Negri Jr. finished the race in 2ndplace in the GT class. In 3rdplace in the GT class was the TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of Johnny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes. 

After pulling away comfortably in the early stages of the race the class pole sitting #88 TianShi Racing Team, Audi R8 LMS had a difficult race that eventually ended with retirement.

At the end of a very tough weekend though, the TianShi Racing Team finished the race on top in the the GT AM Trophy with their #66 Mercedes AMG GT3. Prior to the race, the only track time the drivers Max Wiser and Xu Wei had was in qualifying after a problem with their original entry. 

In Porsche Endurance Trophy, it was polesitter, Benny Simonsen and Philippe Descombe in the #16 Modena Motorsports, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that dominated the race to take a comfortable victory. 

It is now just under two weeks until the second round of the Asian Le Mans Series, this time coming from Fuji Speedway in Japan on 7-9 December.

Race Results