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Albuquerque Aiming for Overall LMP2 Win, Not Just Pro-Am

Filipe Albuquerque hoping his United Autosports teammates can beat all LMP2 crews at Le Mans…

Photo: MPS Agency

United Autosports driver Filipe Albuquerque says he will only be concerning himself with overall victory in LMP2 in next week’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite the No. 23 car he is entered in being registered for the Pro-Am subclass.

Exactly half of the slimmed-down 16-car LMP2 field for this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship centerpiece is entered for Pro-Am, which requires a Bronze-rated driver to be part of the lineup, while the main LMP2 class only mandates one Silver driver.

United’s No. 23 Oreca 07 Gibson is one of the eight Pro-Am cars, as Albuquerque is joined by Ben Keating and Ben Hanley for his 11th visit to the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship full-timer however admits that Pro-Am success doesn’t particularly interest him, as he keeps his eyes fixed on the larger prize of a second overall LMP2 win to go with his previous victory with United in 2020.

“Our approach is still to match ourselves with the fastest guys on track,” said Albuquerque when asked if being in the Pro-Am subclass changed anything for him.

“We have a great car, and even though we have a gentleman driver, in this specific situation our gentleman driver has a lot of experience and is a great driver, even if he lacks the speed of a young guy coming from single-seaters. 

“I will help Ben as much as I can to make him faster, and we’ve seen in the past it’s not just about being fast at Le Mans. It’s about consistency and not making mistakes, while keeping a certain pace.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I am aiming to win it overall. I will be looking at the standings to see if we are P1 in LMP2, not at the small letters saying ‘Pro-Am’.”

Albuquerque’s fellow Acura WeatherTech Championship driver Deletraz is another top-liner who is part of a Pro-Am crew, as the Swiss joins PJ Hyett and Alex Quinn in the No. 14 AO by TF Sport car.

Deletraz said he is hoping that Bronze-rated Hyett shows enough pace to allow the car to at least challenge for a podium in the 16-car LMP2 field.

“Honestly, the Pro-Am class generally is extremely strong,” Deletraz told Sportscar365. “There are some top Bronzes. PJ is new to LMP2 but he has been showing outstanding pace already this year and it’s great to be alongside him.

“But if you look at the pros, the level is as high as Hypercar. There are a lot of drivers with Hypercar or IMSA experience. I think a Pro-Am car has the chance to be on the podium.”

Asked if he was targeting an outright win like Albuquerque, Deletraz said: “For sure it’s in the back of our mind, but we can’t think about it yet. We have to take it day-by-day.

“It’s not about being fast in the first two hours at Le Mans, we have to be there at the end. But if we have a clean race, I think we can challenge for the podium – and if we can get the [overall] win, nobody will say no!”

Inter Europol Competition’s Jakub Schmiekowski, part of last year’s winning LMP2 lineup, told Sportscar365 that he is conscious of the fact that a Pro-Am crew could challenge for overall class victory given the relatively small number of cars in the Silver-mandated class.

“It is possible if the race goes into their favor,” said the Polish driver. “The lineups are strong even in Pro-Am, and if the Bronze driver is out of the car and it’s the other two guys in the car at the end of the race, then it could be possible of course.”

However, Schmiekowski’s co-driver from last year, Fabio Scherer, took a different view.

“I don’t think so,” said the Swiss, who lines up for Nielsen Racing this year. “It’s a six-hour minimum drive time [for the Bronze driver], so I don’t think you can drive that out, unless there’s six hours of safety car.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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