Algarve Pro Racing’s trio of Kyffin Simpson, James Allen and Alex Lynn charged to overall victory at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet last weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard, France, in the second round of the 2023 European Le Mans Series.
Bouncing back from a disappointing result at the Barcelona season opener, 18-year-old Kyffin and his APR teammates executed a near-perfect four hour run to the checkered flag, taking an early lead, and maintaining track position through most of the event’s duration.
Although the #25 Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa ORECA 07 LMP2 machine lacked speed in Saturday’s qualifying session, signs from longer practice runs indicated strong race pace and low tire drop-off – something APR’s competitors in the LMP2 Pro class were evidently struggling with as heatwave temperatures exceeded 92°F.
Simpson opted to start the race for the #25 team, and it was clear from the opening laps that the Caymanian driver had plenty of speed to deploy. Kyffin was fourth by turn one, third a lap later, and then second – all in just the frenetic opening minutes of the race.
Chasing down the #47 COOL Racing team in first, Simpson set about closing down the six-second gap as the LMP2 Pro class began to encounter slower traffic from the LM GTE field of cars. By the first fuel stop, Kyffin was within a second of the #47 car, and the young Caymanian delivered some of the fastest racing laps seen all weekend to ‘overcut’ the leaders once both teams had stopped for fuel.
The #25 Algarve Pro Racing machine now had control of the race, extending its lead by up to six seconds as fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Lynn took over from Simpson in the second hour.
Unfortunately, a mid-race safety car period effectively reset the gap to zero, and APR’s race was further complicated by tire damage that forced an unplanned change of two left-side tires at the halfway point.
James Allen took over for the final race stint and emerged from the pits fifth overall after the unfortunate timing of safety car, further yellow flags, and the tire issue. However, APR’s stunning pace elevated the team back to third in short order – second in class – with the #25 around 15 seconds behind the leaders with 30 minutes to go.
The combination of heat and tire wear was now clearly impacting the race leaders – and did so in dramatic fashion as the #28 in first suffered a puncture, promoting APR to second overall. The final 10 minutes of the race saw the top three cars close together in a dramatic fight for the win.
As the leading #34 ORECA suffered its own tire wear issues, James executed a decisive move for the lead through turns one and two with just seven minutes left on the clock. APR duly set about extending its lead by several seconds, once again demonstrating the team’s inherent pace, and took the checkered flag to seal victory at the 2023 4H Le Castellet.
Speaking after the race, Kyffin said:
“God is good! I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished today. Alex, James and the whole team executed flawlessly. A few things went against us, and it was really quite challenging with the heat to keep the tires alive, but we stayed focused on our own race. It’s a well-deserved win for the team and it’s nice to bounce back from Barcelona with this one.”
Alex Lynn added:
“It has been a fantastic day for Algarve Pro Racing. We always felt we would be competitive in the race and that was the case. Kyffin got us up into the lead, the team had a great first full service and from there we just set about trying to build our advantage. We had good pace to do it, although the Safety Car scuppered that a bit and we had to be really clever on strategy to make sure we got the win we felt we deserved. After my stint, James had a fantastic drive under difficult circumstances with high tyre wear, not really knowing how hard we could push. In the end, it was an exciting finish and I’m super proud to be part of the team.”
James Allen said:
“It was a fun race and we come away with a great result for Algarve Pro Racing. Kyffin’s first stint was amazing and he handed the car to Alex in the lead of the race, which was maintained right through to when I took over during the third hour. We somehow lost track position in the final driver-change, but I fought hard to get back up from fifth to the front before the end. There was a lot of tyre management and many teams had failures on the front-left corner, which made it very difficult. However, we were able to get the car to the end in first position and I can’t thank Algarve Pro enough. The strategy, setup and pit stops were all on point, the effort from my teammates Kyffin and Alex was amazing.”
With two of five ELMS rounds complete, Algarve Pro Racing next travel to MotorLand Aragón, Spain for Round 3 of the series, August 26th 2023.
Kyffin’s next event is Round 8 of INDY NXT by Firestone at Iowa Speedway, Newton IA this coming July 22nd weekend.
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.