After the first two rounds of the season at the Dubai Autodrome, nine ORECA 07s took the start this weekend in Abu Dhabi for the final two races of the 2023 Asian Le Mans Series.
Saturday got off to a good start for 99 Racing who clinched both pole positions thanks to the talented Ahmad Al Harthy from the Sultanate of Oman making his LMP2 debut. While the qualifying session saw several spins and was cut short by a red flag just two minutes before its end, Race 1 was also fiercely contested and interrupted by a red flag for nearly 40 minutes after which numerous penalties were imposed.
COOL Racing’s #37 ORECA 07 claimed the top step on the podium after the intense four-hour race. The Swiss team’s strategy was to let Nicolas Lapierre lead the team while the car was shared by Alex Coigny and Malthe Jakobsen, and it paid off. The young driver proved masterful on the track, even clocking the fastest in-race lap. This was his first LMP2 win after earning several in LMP3 last season.
They were joined on the podium by United Autosports’ #23 and #22 ORECA 07s. However, later in the evening the #22 was subjected to a 35-second penalty for failing to complete one of three mandatory pit stops within the time allotted. This relegated the car to fifth place overall and allowed DKR Engineering to slip into third. Inter Europol Competition’s #43 ORECA 07 finished fourth.
Nielsen Racing finished sixth ahead of 99 Racing who received two penalties for not respecting track limits and excessive speed in pit lane. ARC Bratislava finished eighth and Algarve Pro Racing brought up the rear after suffering the same 35-second penalty as United Autosports.
Sunday’s Race 2 saw even tighter gaps and heated battles for the championship! Seven teams were in contention to win both the 2023 ALMS title and an automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The suspense stayed at fever pitch right to the end as the duel between DKR Engineering and the 99 Racing team kept spectators on the edge of their seats. DKR Engineering triumphed just 1.903 seconds ahead of 99 Racing, clinching a sensational victory as well as the championship trophy and an automatic invitation to the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary!
Though COOL Racing had hoped for a second consecutive win, the team incurred two penalties that consigned it to third in the race and second in the championship.
Algarve Pro Racing finished fourth ahead of the ORECA 07s fielded by United Autosports and ARC Bratislava.
After leading the grid for a time, Inter Europol Competition experienced gearbox troubles, forcing the car back to its box near the end of the race, as was Nielsen Racing’s car subsequent to contact with COOL Racing’s ORECA 07.
By winning the LMP3 title, Graff Racing has earned an automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMP2 class.
Now all eyes are turned to the opening round of the 2023 FIA WEC and second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the Sebring circuit in Florida on 17-18 March.