Algarve Pro Racing claimed the 2016/17 Asian Le Mans Series title in the season finale after the #25 crew of Andrea Pizzitola, Andrea Roda and Aiden Reid controlled proceedings at Sepang to score its first and only win of the season.
It was an unlikely victory and title win for the Portuguese outfit, after the Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Gustavo Menezes, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent, which sat atop the standings by 18 points heading into the race, retired due to accident damage.
The incident in question occurred at the very start of the race heading into Turn 1, as Georgio Maggi in the Race Performance Oreca which eventually finished second in the race, collided with the DC Racing 03R of Tung.
“The start was straight forward for Roda and myself but Maggi made a jump start and was alongside both of us on the run to Turn 1,” explained Tung. “I braked at my normal point, and I got a big hit to my right rear tyre and caused significant damage to my bodywork and engine.
“It damaged the head gasket and caused the water temperature to rise.”
Tung initially nursed then car back to the pits for repairs, but despite the team mechanics’ best efforts to get the car into the race, it eventually retired after its engine expired after a few extra laps. It was a gruelling end for the team, which only had to finish classified to win the title after such a successful season to this point.
From then on Algarve Pro’s pair Ligiers led the way, with Mark Patterson in the #24 Ligier having a great run to the lead briefly and later the #25 of Roda taking back control, holding P1 for the entire second half of the race.
For Race Performance, Fabien Schiller put together another great performance during the middle portion of the race, climbing to second just after the two-hour mark before a mechanical issue caused the German to slow. It initially looked like it could be game over for the team, as Schiller cruised past the start/finish line but the car eventually got back up to speed again after falling back down to third.
Struan Moore then climbed into the car for the final stint, and for a final shot at second spot. He stepped up to the challenge by setting a series of fast laps throughout his time in the car to catch Patterson’s Algarve JS P2 ahead. Moore then managed to make a move at the final hairpin with just a few minutes remaining on Patterson, concluding a very head-turning season for the Englishman; his first racing in Le Mans prototypes.
Meanwhile in LMP3, the race went down to the wire, with the Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JS P3 of Nigel Moore and Phil Hanson eventually coming out on top and handing the team the championship and a ticket to Le Mans.
After a myriad of order changes at the front throughout the pit cycles it eventually came down to Moore having to chase down Hanss Lin’s G-Print by Triple 1 Ligier in the final dash to the flag, after making light work of Hiroki Yoshida in the #1 Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier to get second spot.
With 10 minutes to go, Moore made his move, and capped off a sterling drive from the 25-year-old, in which he dominated the opening portion of the race before handing over to Hanson for the middle stint.
Further down the order the first of the Ginettas, the #69 Aylezo Ecotint Racing car of Zen Low, Weiron Tan and Riki Christodoulou, crossed the line a distant fourth, 14th overall.
Like in LMP2 there was also drama for the title contenders in the P3 category. The championship-leading #4 ARC Bratislava Ginetta of Darren Burke and Konstantins Calko was involved in a shunt with an unnamed Ferrari that forced it into the garage for an extended period, after the incident caused a battery isolator problem. The car finished 22nd overall, just behind the sister #7 Ginetta, that also had a shot at the title with a good finish, which also hit trouble and finished 21st.
It was close for the win in GT too, as the Team Audi Korea outfit crossed the line first, just 12 seconds ahead of the #3 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 after a form-book-beating performance from Kyong Ouk You, Alex Yoong and Marchy Lee.
Ouk You in the winning Audi was the standout early, keeping the team in the lead during the first hour setting up Yoong to eventually close out the race late on after DH Racing and BBT’s Ferraris both took turns at the front of the field.
Further back though, the #5 DH Ferrari took the title. Michele Rugolo, Stephane Lemere and Matthieu Vaxiviere finished fifth in the GT class as the other title contenders failed to take a win. It was a huge relief for the Hong Kong-based team after the drama at the end of the round at Buriram; with the result in Malaysia it will be heading to Le Mans.
Second in the running was the sister #3 BBT Ferrari of Olivier Beretta, Rino Mastronardi and Alex Riberas with the #37 BBT Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo claiming the final podium spot.
2015/16 GT champion Clearwater Racing narrowly missed out on the podium and finished just ahead of the championship winners with its Ferrari 488 in fourth.
Down in the GT Cup Class, the TKS team took a dominant win, surviving a late drive-through penalty for pit infringements to beat the Team NZ outfit to the flag after Will Bamber suffered an early race trip into the gravel.
DC Racing garage image courtesy of Eurasia Motorsport