The final four-hour race of the Asian Le Mans Series at Buriram International Circuit in Thailand saw a nail-biting encounter that went almost to the very end.
Three cars came into the race with an opportunity to secure the overall Championship and the auto-entry for the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours the comes with it. The #36 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier effort pushed hard, opting to start Roberto Mehri in an attempt to pressure the other runners but the Spanish ex F1 man couldn’t get to the front with Jack Manchester and James French proving too hot to handle in the other two potential Championship winning cars.
The #36 found better pace later on with Nick Foster re-cementing his growing reputation as a man with real pace but a puncture mid-race pitched him into the gavel at T3, the car would be recovered and would finish but their championship hopes were gone.
That meant that one potential factor that could have helped the Thunderhead Carlin Dallara effort was gone, the #45 effort needing to win with the #26 Aurus 01 no better than third.
Shaun Thong again looked very convincing in the #96 K2 Uchino Oreca and ran a strong third for some time but that effort faded after a long pit stop. The Japanese squad though would recover to claim their first LMP2 podium.
The only other runner that looked likely to get involved was the #34 Inter Europol Ligier, the team throwing the tragic dice to slice 20 seconds from the leading group’s advantage and putting first Mathias Beche, and later Kuba Scmiekowski into real contention.
That effort ended in the closing stages as the Polish driver looked set to mount a challenge to the top two, the Ligier closing in but then slowing, pitting and into the garage with an electrical issue.
That left the top two away and clear and after a pair of Manchester/ Tincknell single stint rotations the Dallara was right there, this despite a Full Course yellow that came at the wrong time for the team, forcing them to lave Manchester out to complete his driving time but gifting a big advantage to the #26 as they pitted under yellow, taking a significant lump of time out of the Dallara which lost its lead and dropped back a further 40 seconds as a result.
Manchester had the race of his life, his first stint exceptional, and was never headed when in the car.
Tincknell was left to attack the post-FCY deficit and did it with aplomb before Ben Barnicoat was installed for a double stint to the finish.
He attacked hard and closed a gap to Roman Rusinov setting up a tussle for the lead that wet Barnicoat’s way after a number of side by side moments.
That left the crew to celebrate their second consecutive race win but reflect on the single point between them and the title.
That went the way of the #26 which came home second, after solid and error-free running from all three drivers, James French solid at the start, Leonard Hoogenboom putting in probably his best LMP2 drive so far and Rusinov himself in feisty form.
Te plan was executed perfectly, and in the final half hour coding the race lead without further pressure from behind was ore a matter of pride than anything else – G-Drive by Algarve take the title, Algarve Pro Racing will field the Le Mans entry.
One further headline surrounds the #1 Eurasia Ligier which claimed the outright race lap record at Buriram late in the race, a 1:23.848 taking a chunk from the previous record pace set by Daiski Daiki in the 2014 Super GT race.