G-Drive Racing operated by Algarve Pro Racing was on course to beat world title-winning teams to second position in LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (29 April-1 May).
The Portugal-based team fielded two Aurus 01-Gibsons in the opening round of the 2021 FIA WEC and was comfortably second in class with the #26 car of Roman Rusinov, Nyck de Vries and Franco Colapinto until 80 minutes from the end of the Spa curtain-raiser.
However, the #26 G-Drive Racing entry sustained damage in an early collision, a small, manageable oil leak necessitating short refills during each scheduled pit stop.
Rather than observing an order to repair the damage, which neither compromised the car's competitiveness nor the safety of its rivals, Algarve Pro Racing instead chose to retire the #26, having already proven capable of bettering FIA WEC regulars at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
On the other hand, John Falb in the sister #25 car was comfortably the fastest Am driver at the start of the race but dropped to tenth in class, an over-exuberant defence against a string of high-profile Pros resulting in contact and damage during the opening exchanges.
Hobbled, the #25 Aurus was off the pace and Falb’s stablemates Roberto Merhi and Rui Andrade faced an uphill struggle during their respective stints, ultimately bringing the car home on the edge of the top ten and fifth in Pro-Am.
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “I have to compliment the Algarve Pro Racing crew for their efforts, because they did a fantastic job to make both cars so competitive. We were on our way to second place in LMP2, and while United Autosports had a massive lead – well done to them – no other team could catch us on pace alone.
“We had a tiny oil leak, only losing half a litre per stint, but a a windscreen tear-off was taken to Race Control and we were subsequently shown a black and orange flag. In fairness, I would have done the same – that’s racing – and while our oil levels were fine and we would have seen the chequered flag, it made more sense to retire the car at that point of the race.”
Cox added: “John (Falb) was once again the quickest Am driver on the track by some way at the start, but he got involved in unnecessary fights with Pro drivers and we were effectively out of contention after a collision with a lapped GTE car, as the damage we sustained cost us pace and an opportunity to move forward during Roberto Merhi and Rui Andrade's stints.
“Ultimately, the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa was a trial to see how we ran in comparison to other Le Mans entrants. World Champion teams couldn’t pass us on the road and I’m looking forward to meeting them again at Le Mans. We got a car running in second place and we’re now purely focused on beating reigning Champion, United Autosports.”