Algarve Pro Racing has won the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series championship with victory in the Four Hours of Sepang, securing an automatic invite for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Driving the No. 25 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, Andrea Pizzitola, Andrea Roda and Aidan Read combined to give the Portuguese squad its only race win of the season, while Jackie Chan DC Racing, the title favorites, retired early in the race.
An incident at the start of the race between the DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan and Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd paved the way for a surprising outcome, ruining the title hopes of Zhuhai and Buriram winners Gustavo Menezes and Ho-Pin Tung, who were again joined by Thomas Laurent.
Damage, a puncture, and a suspected gasket failure in the No. 35 Oreca resulted in retirement having only completed eight laps.
The mayhem in the LMP2 class allowed Nigel Moore to lead several laps at the start in the No. 26 Tockwith Ligier JS P3 Nissan, but Roda was able to capture the lead on the ninth lap.
Thereafter, the lead changed several times between the Nos. 25 and 24 Algarve Pro Ligiers, eight times before the end of the race.
Race Performance went on to take second position, with Fabien Schiller finishing one minute, 45 seconds behind Pizzitola, while Mark Patterson completed the podium in the Judd-engined Algarve Pro car.
“It was a strange start, with a lot of crashes and so we basically started from last position, and we had to deal with the traffic with the GT and LMP3, but I tried to avoid any issues and crashes,” said Roda.
“I tried to push as much as I could for two stints. We had very good pace. The car was awesome. When I left the car I was wrecked from the heat. I was really happy to have pushed as hard as I did and to take the title as driver and for the team.
“We deserve it and worked hard for it. We’re so proud of this and we have to congratulate DC Racing and Race Performance for the challenge because it was really hard to achieve this.”
The title battle was just as tense in LMP3, and a strong showing in the final few laps gave the both the class race and championship win to Tockwith Motorsports.
Moore and co-driver Philip Hanson have had a strong debut season in the series that included the class win at Fuji and second position at Zhuhai.
It was an all-Ligier podium in LMP3, with the G-Print by Triple 1 Racing and Jackie Chan DC Racing entries finishing second and third, both within 12 seconds of the Tockwith car that passed both of them in the closing stages of the race.
ARC Bratislava led the standings after Buriram with its No. 4 Ginetta LMP3, but that car found itself in the garage for most of the race, leading to a seventh-place finish for Darren Burke and Constantins Calko.
Team Audi Korea took a surprise win in GT with drivers Kyong Ouk You, Marchy Lee and Alex Yoong, while the No. 5 DH Racing team takes home the championship with a fifth-place finish.
Stephane Lemeret, Michele Rugolo, Matthieu Vaxiviere combined to win on track two weeks ago and provisionally secure the title at Buriram but they were soon stripped of their win in a post-race penalty.
Nevertheless, the No. 5 Ferrari 488 GT3 still led the standings coming into the Sepang weekend, with a fifth-place finish enough to receive an invite to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Along with what became a third-place finish at Buriram, the three DH Racing drivers won together at Fuji. However, Rugolo’s fourth-place finish with different co-drivers at the Zhuhai season-opener makes him the only GT drivers’ champion.
The sister No. 3 car finished second, while championship rivals Team BBT and Clearwater Racing completed the top four in class.
TKS and its all-Japanese lineup of Shinyo Sano, Takuma Aoki and Shigeto Nagashima won in GT Cup, in a completely open championship fight between TKS and Team NZ, both of which came to Sepang on 26 points each.
PS Racing withdrew its Ligier JS 53 before track action started, and so there were no competitors in CN.
RESULTS: 4H Sepang