Algarve Pro Racing won the opening round of the Asian Le Mans Series at Dubai Autodrome after beating DKR Engineering and 99 Racing in a close-fought LMP2 contest.
James Allen, Kyffin Simpson and John Falb won Saturday’s four-hour race by nine seconds over the DKR crew of Charlie Eastwood, Ayhancan Guven and Salih Yoluc.
Algarve Pro took the lead at the final round of pit stops, as the Portuguese squad turned its No. 35 Oreca 07 Gibson around 11 seconds quicker than the No. 3 DKR crew.
LMP2 newcomer 99 Racing completed the overall podium with its No. 98 Oreca driven by Nikita Mazepin, Gonzalo Gomes and Neel Jani, who narrowly missed out on second after chasing Eastwood to the line.
Inter Europol Competition led the opening hour and 20 minutes with pole-sitter Charles Crews behind the wheel, however Guven quickly dispatched the American’s co-driver Christian Bogle after the first driver changes.
Guven’s lead extended to around half a minute following a round of pit stops under a Full Course Yellow period that was caused by debris on the track.
Simpson advanced past Bogle into second and dramatically reduced the margin to overall leader Guven in the DKR Oreca. A quicker pit stop with an hour and 30 minutes remaining then vaulted Algarve Pro to the lead, with Allen now placed in the No. 35 car.
DKR’s slower service also dropped Eastwood behind ex-Formula 1 driver Mazepin, who went on to overtake Allen for the lead at the head of an exciting three-way battle.
Mazepin’s advantage only lasted about five minutes, however, as Algarve Pro restored Allen at the front after another round of pit stops under FCY conditions, due to a stoppage for the HubAuto Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Allen and Eastwood battled at the start of the closing hour, with the DKR driver initially holding the edge until the lead swung in Algarve Pro’s direction at the last set of stops.
Jani, in third, had an entertaining duel with Inter Europol Competition’s Nolan Siegel until the pole-sitting No. 43 Oreca developed a left-rear wheel issue.
24 Hours of Le Mans winner Jani went on to put the pressure on Eastwood but came up three-tenths of a second short.
Siegel’s misfortune enabled Nielsen Racing to finish fourth, ahead of the two United Autosports Orecas which flew under the radar throughout. The No. 23 United car had to recover from an electrical issue that emerged shortly before the start.
ARC Bratislava was sixth, in front of Cool Racing which lost ground in the opening hour when Alexandre Coigny touched an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at Turn 5 and spun deep into the run-off, triggering an FCY.
LMP3 class honors went to the MV2S Racing squad with its Ligier JS P320 Nissan driven by Fabien Lavergne, Viacheslav Gutak and Jerome de Sadeleer.
Lavergne found a way past Graff Ligier driver Xavier Lloveras with 11 minutes remaining to take the lead and went on to secure the victory by just under four seconds.
Lloveras shared second place with Fabrice Russello and Francois Heriau, and finished one place ahead of defending champion CD Sport with its No. 1 Ligier.
Nielsen Racing initially looked set to take the LMP3 win until the British squad wheeled its No. 4 Ligier into the garage at its final planned pit stop with a starter motor issue.
Walkenhorst Claims GT Honors with BMW
Nicky Catsburg, Chandler Hull and Thomas Merrill were triumphant in the GT category with their Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW GT3, which led for most of the way.
Catsburg, however, survived having to make a late pit stop with eight minutes to go as several competitors in the class battled with their fuel mileage.
The Dutchman emerged just behind Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG driver Luca Stolz, but returned to the front when Stolz appeared to cede the position out of the penultimate corner.
The No. 7 HRT Mercedes then dived into the pits, securing a Walkenhorst victory, while the No. 10 GetSpeed Mercedes progressed into second.
Stolz managed to salvage a podium behind GetSpeed and ahead of three Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Rs.
The Asian Le Mans Series returns to action on Sunday for another four-hour race at Dubai Autodrome starting at 3 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).
RESULTS: 4H Dubai Race 1