Algarve Pro Racing’s trio of Kyffin Simpson, James Allen and John Falb secured third overall in the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 championship standings last weekend, rounding off a strong showing across four rounds with a fourth-place finish in the 4H Abu Dhabi finale.
The #25 Visit Cayman Islands ORECA 07 prototype led the series standings at the halfway point, with a victory and fourth place in Dubai, but the second leg at the Yas Marina Circuit delivered an unfortunate combination of hard luck and mechanical issues that ultimately meant the overall series title was out of reach.
18-year-old Kyffin defied expectations as both ALMS newcomer and one of the youngest LMP2 class drivers, showcasing consistency, raw speed, traffic management, and defensive driving skills in both Abu Dhabi events – skills that will undoubtedly prove useful for his future career.
For Saturday’s race, Algarve Pro Racing teammate John Falb took the wheel for both qualifying and the opening race stint, displaying the same front-running pace shown in Dubai to deliver a consistent run and keep the #25 in contention. As the race progressed through yellow periods, pit stops and driver changes, a gear selection issue developed and damaged the gearbox internals.
Kyffin’s pit stop proved to be the turning point at which the first Abu Dhabi race unravelled. Having identified the developing gearbox issues, the team anticipated a slow getaway from the pit lane as first gear was no longer functional. However, Kyffin managed to pull the car away quickly – quicker than thought possible – and the team’s pit stop was just tenths of a second under the allowed 100s mandatory pit stop time.
This unfortunately meant the team would lose another 40-50 seconds on the next stop to fulfil this requirement, on top of the increasing mechanical issues that Kyffin was having to manage for the remainder of the race. Despite this significant setback, and missing first multiple gears in the gearbox, Kyffin delivered front-running lap times to bring the #25 back into top-three contention in the dying minutes, overtaking fifth and fourth place in a dramatic one-two manoeuvre.
A move for third was possible, but a combination of unfortunately timed traffic and gearbox issues pitched Kyffin into a spin at the final turn. The #25 was down, but not out, as Kyffin successfully engaged one of the remaining gears to drive back onto the track, eventually crossing the line ninth to salvage two valuable points.
Algarve Pro Racing worked tirelessly to repair the car for Sunday’s race, and once again John Falb made a clean getaway to keep the #25 in contention for overall victory. At this stage, it was still mathematically possible, if unlikely, that the team could secure the championship under the right circumstances.
However, with a change in temperature bringing different track conditions, the pace advantage APR enjoyed the previous day seemed to have been negated. In response, the team tried a bold strategy to burn the three mandatory 100s pit stops early in the four-hour race, giving James and Kyffin the lion’s share of work in catching back up to the field in the closing stages.
Sunday’s race proved to be a largely green-flag affair with little time gained in strategy. This meant the best possible result was ultimately fourth, despite some aggressive driving from James and Kyffin to maximise their chances over two long stints at the wheel.
Reflecting on a rollercoaster week in the United Arab Emirates, Kyffin said:
“It was a tough race [today]. Things definitely didn’t go our way! After John’s stint, we tried everything we could to gain track position. The team did a brilliant job, our pace was solid, but once I got in the car it didn’t quite feel like we had the same pace we’ve had all week.
I’ve learnt so much in a short amount of time [in ALMS]. The Asian Le Mans Series has been great for racing, track time and experience; a worthwhile trip and I’ve really enjoyed working with Algarve Pro Racing, James and John. Big thanks to them and Chip Ganassi Racing with their help in putting this program together.
I’m looking forward to my next race with APR in the European Le Mans Series.”
After four rounds, the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series concluded – Algarve Pro Racing taking third overall in the standings with 51 points, just three behind second-placed Cool Racing.
Kyffin’s next event is the NTT INDYCAR SERIES opener in St. Petersburg, FL, March 3-5, where his INDY NXT by Firestone season begins with team HMD Motorsports.
Kyffin Simpson is a Chip Ganassi Racing development driver supported by The American Legion, Ridgeline Lubricants, InvestCayman, Visit Cayman Islands, Boddens Legal, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa Grand Cayman, Simpson Race Products and Kokoro Media.