Algarve Pro Racing’s Kyffin Simpson, James Allen and Alex Lynn brought the 2023 European Le Mans Series to a close in style, scoring two second place finishes in the double-header ‘Grand Finale’ event to secure the overall ELMS championship title in the LMP2 class at Algarve International Circuit, Portugal.
APR and its drivers had established themselves as the class of the LMP2 field heading into the season finale, boasting a 20-point lead over their nearest rivals with 52 available to score in Portimão.
In a weekend characterised by unpredictable, often relentless rainfall, Simpson and the APR crew maintained their composure to deliver a typically consistent performance across the five-day event. Their last outing at the famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps delivered APR’s second win of 2023, and as the field took to the track for testing, it appeared APR had brought its race-winning pace with it.
The 25 Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa ORECA 07 topped an extended three-hour practice session on Thursday, crucially just ahead of title rivals United Autosports, before going on to score a stunning pole position in the hands of Simpson’s teammate James Allen in a rain-affected Friday qualifying shootout.
Managing the track’s evolution as rain clouds rolled through the Algarve region proved key to success, and APR timed it to perfection with Allen, meaning Simpson would take the green flag for the team on Friday for the 4H Algarve race event – two days before the season-ending 4H Portimão.
Kyffin powered away from pole position to take a commanding lead in 4H Algarve, at one point extending into a double-digit second advantage over chasing LMP2 rivals. However, the wet-to-dry conditions provided multiple opportunities for the field to reset under full-course yellows. With James and Alex taking over, a surging United Autosports leapfrogged APR to lead the race in the closing stages. Algarve Pro Racing secured their third podium finish of 2023 to maintain the overall championship lead.
Heading into Sunday’s final race, Allen qualified the car in one of the most difficult timed sessions of the weekend. Torrential rain pounded the Algarve circuit just before qualifying, then relented, presenting a quickly evolving track surface for the field to content with in 15 minutes.
James’ best effort placed APR fourth on the grid, with Kyffin once again starting the race for #25. However, Sunday morning brought the heaviest rain seen all week in Portimão, and the race start was delayed multiple times from its planned start at 13:00 local. At 14:30, the safety car led a two-lap procession before the race was red-flagged. When the finally resumed, the rain had cleared in favor of sunny skies – and a rapidly-changing track surface.
Kyffin maintained fourth position overall before pitting around 90 minutes into the four-hour race, and teammates James and Alex were tasked with making the crucial call to switch to slick tires at the earliest possible opportunity. In trademark APR fashion, the team delivered a sure-footed performance to climb as high as second overall.
In the dying minutes of the race, the chasing IDEC Sport car briefly challenged Lynn for second place – and made slight contact in doing so – but Alex held position, securing APR’s fourth podium finish of the season and the ELMS championship title.
Speaking after Sunday’s race, Kyffin said:
“It’s been a pretty incredible weekend. I’m super happy we could wrap up both championships here. The changing conditions made both races tricky, but I did my best to hand the car over in one piece after my stints.”
“Today was more about survival than anything else. It feels like we had everything thrown at us, but the team collectively remained calm, and we just did what we know best. James and Alex did a great job as always.”
“It’s great to be a small part of APR’s story. This team is executing flawlessly every weekend, and they deserve every success. I have enjoyed racing with them. I hope I can do so again in the future; I wouldn’t want to be up against them, that’s for sure.”
Algarve Pro Racing sealed the 2023 European Le Mans Series championship by 13 points over United Autosports, winning the overall LMP2 title and a coveted 2024 24H of Le Mans entry.
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.