2018 ELMS champion Andrea Pizzitola is set to switch teams for his 2019 campaign, the Frenchman set to race with Algarve Pro Racing (after competing with G-Drive in 2018) alongside Mark Patterson and 2017 ELMS LMP3 champion John Falb, in an ORECA 07 Gibson.
“I’m really happy to be extending my association with Algarve Pro Racing,” said Pizzitola.
“It’s the team that gave me my first chance in LMP2, so for me it’s more than a team, it’s part of the story of my career and a family. I’m also excited to be racing again in the European Le Mans Series with Mark (Patterson) and John (Falb). It’s going to be an awesome challenge and I think we can figure highly throughout.
“In the ORECA 07 we have a good chance to be out front in qualifying and we can always aim for the podium. The level is high in the ELMS and that will make achieving results even more satisfying.
“We will do all we can to feature at the top. Last year I had a great season, winning the title. I’m not going into 2019 with the specific aim of defending my crown, as I just want to race. I took the same approach last year and thoughts about the championship always come later.”
67-year-old Patterson also continues his relationship with the Portuguese-flagged team as part of this effort, which dates back to the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series season.
“I really want to do well and finish regularly inside the top half of the LMP2 field in 2019. With a guy like Andrea (Pizzitola) who has immense skill and rarely makes mistakes and somebody like John (Falb), who is a former Champion and a very fast, diligent driver, we should be very competitive.”
Falb on the other hand, is new to the team. The 47-year-old joins Algarve Pro after spending three seasons racing in the ELMS’ LMP3 class with United Autosports, winning the class title back in 2017.
For 2019, Falb told DSC it’s the right time to step up, having tested an ORECA 07 back at the end of last year. He said he felt comfortable in the car quickly, and that helped him make the decision to move up.
“I looked at several options, and I think that APR is a good place to go,” Falb said. “Stuart Cox has proven that his team can be successful in recent years, with two cars, and he put together a package that was compelling for me. We plan to do quite a bit of testing, and for me I will use that time to get up to speed with the car.
“Being in an ORECA is good, it’s what I tested (with Duquiene) and we’ve got the champion from last year, who is so experienced and I hope to learn a lot from. Mark, I’ve run with before too, at United, he too knows how to race at a high level.”
Due to the team’s line-up running with two Bronze drivers, Falb knows that challenging for wins in amongst a huge ELMS LMP2 field will be hard, but this is a learning year, and the start of a multi-year plan to race in LMP2.
“It’ll be tough, but if things fall our way I’m sure we can challenge for podiums. I’d be ecstatic to get a podium in my first year.”
As for Le Mans, Falb has had the ambition to race at the 24 Hours for many years. He told DSC that should APR receive an invite, he will be part of it.
“The team has been supporting the ACO around the world and has been at Le Mans before,” Falb explained. “You’ve got two ELMS champions in the car and a stalwart in the paddock too. We won’t know until the list comes out, but Le Mans is part of the programme for sure. If there’s any way we can get into the race, we will be there.”