For Algarve Pro, the 4 Hours of Imola, round 2 of the 2016 European Le Mans Series season, was the last event before the team's Le Mans debut. The outcome of the race was not the one the team was working for, but the team and drivers had good mileage with a competitive package.
After the top 10 finish at the 4 Hours of Silverstone in April, Parth Ghorpade went to Italy and the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in good spirits. For the whole crew, the plan was to continue to have the car in the top 10 while preparing for the big event in LeMans in June. As Parth, Michael Munemann and Sir Chris Hoy raced for the first time together at Silverstone, the other goal in the 4 Hours of Imola was to gain further experience at the wheel of the Ligier JS P2-Nissan, one of the best combinations to be found in the LMP2 class.
After free practice sessions (7th in FP1, 12th in FP2), qualifying was very encouraging for the #25 blue and white Nissan powered Ligier, as Parth Ghorpade qualified 10th out of a field of 45 cars. This proved once again that Parth and the Algarve Pro car has the potential for another overall top 10 finish.
Just as he did at Silverstone Michael Munemann started the race under cloudy conditions. He dropped to P14 after lap 1 but maintained a consistent pace during his stint in the early stages of the race. The 6-time Olympic Gold Medallist Sir Chris Hoy took the wheel on lap 25 with the plan gaining valuable race mileage before fulfilling his long-time dream of competing in the 24 Hours, and during his initial laps he experienced multiple Full Course Yellows but once again posted consistent lap times, and gained positions.
Working his way up to 11th place after a 1 hour 45 minute stint the Scotsman handed over to Parth Ghorpade who would finish the last 1 hour 45 minutes of the race, the team were looking forward to seeing Ghorphade make up more places, but as dark clouds started to gather in the sky above the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the Indian driver having just set the cars fastest lap of the race so far reported an issue with the power steering and after series of unexpected pit stops to diagnose the fault the decision was made to retire the car just before the final hour of the race, which ended with a Full Course Yellow and a Safety Car period under heavy rain.
Parth Ghorpade, “ it’s a real shame that we didn’t manage to finish the race, the whole team and my team mates did a fantastic job all weekend and I really think we were capable of finishing in the top 6. My pace in practice and qualifying was really competitive and each
time I drive the car I am feeling more and more confident, there is definitely more to come from me. I’m really looking forward to the next round in Austria”
Stewart Cox, Team Principle: " This was Parth's second race at the wheel of an LMP2 car and we are seeing a big improvements every time he drives. He went eight tenths quicker in qualifying than in testing so P10 was good for us, and he was happy with that. I was looking forward to seeing him on the track but after three laps he reported a problem with steering. We basically had a failure with the electric power steering unit and were not able to replace it in the time left so with regret we retired the car. Now we must get ready for Le Mans and we have test next week with the three LM drivers so they can get an understanding of the car with low downforce."
Parth will be in action again on the 16th & 17th of July at round three of the European LeMans Series at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.