Newey and Pizzitola win Fuji 4-Hours race
Algarve Pro Racing secured a critical race win in the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Fuji (7-9 December) to bring itself back into the fight for outright title honors at the midway point of the 2018-19 season.
The first Asian Le Mans free practice session at Fuji consisted of high-fuel stints on worn tires, but Algarve Pro Racing still ended the 90 minutes with the third and fourth fastest times;
However, the Albufeira, Portugal-based team concluded qualifying for the Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Fuji in second and fifth overall;
A 1m32.020s from France’s Pizzitola secured a front-row starting position for the #24 crew, while Fjordbach in the #25 ended up as the second quickest of the Amateur Trophy contenders in P5;
On race day, ambient and track temperatures fell further and Asian Le Mans Series Race Director, Eduardo Freitas, gave drivers two formation laps to acclimatize to the prevailing conditions;
From second on the grid, Newey snatched the initiative from United Autosports’ Phil Hanson under braking for Turn 1, where a collision between Patterson in the sister #25 car and the #4 ARC Bratislava entry – one of Algarve Pro’s rivals for the Asian Le Mans Amateur Trophy – ensued;
Patterson, who tumbled to 12th on the opening lap, was served with a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident, but the South Africa-born American put on a strong recovery to breach the top ten before the first round of scheduled pit stops, when Chris McMurry took the reins of the #25 Ligier;
Newey set quick sector times to extend his lead over second-placed Hanson to 5.3s during the first 30 minutes, despite having to lap the Asian Le Mans Series’ GT contingent;
However, the pace slowed dramatically as rain began to fall at Fuji International Speedway;
Newey nursed the #24 Ligier back to the pits for fuel and wet tires, following a tentative in-lap that featured a spin at Turn 1 and a wayward moment at Turn 10;
Newey remained aboard the #24, but his call to pit one lap later than his nearest rivals cost Algarve Pro Racing time and meant he re-entered the race alongside United Autosports’ Hanson, who snatched the initiative at Turn 1;
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.
Harrison Newey (#24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2): “My stint was up and down, because the pace was unbelievable on the slicks and I pulled out a big gap, but I made a late call to box for wet tires and lost the lead. I regained a lot of the lost ground during the second half of my stint before handing over to Andrea (Pizzitola), who not only did a super job to keep an ex-Formula 1 driver behind, but pull 16 seconds on him. I’m really looking forward to the second half of the Asian Le Mans season. Buriram is a track I know from last year, when I raced well to second position. I hope to come back and win the race, especially as Ate (Dirk de Jong) will be re-joining us. We’re looking forward to having him back.”
Results 140 Laps
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