Enqvist, French and Kim complete Algarve Pro Racing's 2019 ELMS roster
Algarve Pro Racing will field a second ORECA 07 LMP2 in the 2019 European Le Mans Series for swift Swede Henning Enqvist, American young gun James French and South Korea’s Tacksung Kim.
Enqvist raced in national Swedish karting series' between 2008 and 2012 and made a big splash when he finished second on his debut in the Radical Scandinavia Championship, which was dovetailed with a Radical European Masters programme.
The Stockholm-based racer – a Real Estate Management graduate from Oxford Brookes University – progressed to LMP3 competition in the 2017 V de V Endurance Series, where he accumulated a race victory and two podium finishes en route to sixth in the final classification.
However, Enqvist then went on to complete an eclectic, bi-continental programme that encompassed MRF Challenge single-seaters, the China Endurance Series, V de V and a maiden ELMS campaign, split between LMP3 and LMP2 machinery.
The 24-year old enters his first full season in LMP2 off the back of mightily impressive testing performances, and with the view of laying the groundwork for a three-year programme that he hopes will take him to the top step of the winners’ rostrum in the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I feel really excited to be starting my first full season in LMP2, because I’m entering a critical stage of my career that will determine whether or not I achieve my ultimate ambition,” said Enqvist. “I got well-acquainted with the LMP2 car in a test with Algarve Pro Racing at Portimao and I hope to progress in leaps and bounds throughout the season to give me hope of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the next three years. It’s an ambitious plan for an LMP2 rookie, but you must set big targets and put yourself in deep water. I’ve always worked extremely hard to achieve my goals and will continue doing whatever it takes to achieve this goal. We will see where we stand in pre-season testing, but we have a line-up that is capable of doing very well.”
Algarve Pro Racing also welcomes French to the fold. The 26-year old American from Sheboygan, Wisconsin raced karts from the tender age of five, but laid sold foundations for a career in sportscar racing during five prolific seasons in the C Sports Racer (CSR) class of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
French, who graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with a Motorsports Engineering degree in 2016, became a three-time CSR Central Division title-winner and backed up those successes with one-off American Le Mans Series (ALMS) outings and a partial LMPC campaign.
A maiden ALMS podium in 2012 preceded a third-place result in the 2013 Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta and another visit to victory lane the following year at Virginia International Raceway, although it was only in 2015 that French was given a full-season drive in the IMSA United SportsCar Championship, when he fought his way to five podiums and sixth in the final Prototype Challenge points table.
The American rising star continued earning his stripes in 2016, as he finished on the podium in six of the 11 United SportsCar Championship races to finish third in the Prototype Challenge Teams’ Championship, although there was a significant upturn the following year in 2017 when he dominated the LMPC class by winning seven of eight races, including the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity and I’m very excited about the prospect of experiencing new tracks with a car that I’m pretty familiar with,” said French. “I’m looking forward to working with my new teammates, as I think we have a strong line-up capable of achieving some good results. We will have a better idea of where we are after the first test. Firstly, we must make sure we finish all races with no big mistakes, contact or penalties, and then hopefully fight for top fives or even podiums at end of the season.
“I have to use this year to learn as much as possible and continue growing as a driver. I have no experience of any of the ELMS circuits, but I’ve been dreaming of going to places like Silverstone and Spa since I was a kid and my ultimate career goal to this point has been to get to Le Mans. One of the main draws of the ELMS was its competitiveness. It boasts a strong field of high-profile names, including GP2 drivers and ex-F1 stars and that should make for some really good racing. If it wasn’t tough and competitive, it wouldn’t be any fun.”
Kim, on the other hand, is no stranger to Algarve Pro Racing, as the 41-year old gentleman racer from Seoul, South Korea first joined the fold for the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series and most recently reunited with the Albufeira-based team last year for a full-time assault on the ELMS and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Korean, who made his competitive debut in the 2013 Ferrari Challenge Asia, said: “This is my third year with Algarve Pro Racing and I’m delighted to be joining forces again. I feel we’ve grown and expanded together. The team provided me with systematic and customised programmes in a professional environment, as well as challenging opportunities and warm encouragements, but it was most instrumental when I transitioned from the Asian Le Mans Series to the ELMS, ensuring that I was prepared and equipped to adapt quickly and enjoy each race.
“I’m really excited to be racing alongside two very fast young drivers. I always aim high and, with such competitive teammates, I will do everything to achieve top-five results. Having said that, I will just enjoy the season and focus on doing the best I can.”
The six-part 2019 European Le Mans Series commences with the 4 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France (12-14 April) and encompasses halts at Monza, Barcelona, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao.