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.