With the lure of the endurance classics at Daytona and Sebring, a European-based prototype team is set to contest the opening rounds of next year’s United SportsCar Racing series.
SPEED.com has learned that Algarve Pro Racing, a Portugal-based squad run by former Jordan F1 testing manager and A1GP Team Ireland chief mechanic Stewart Cox, is finalizing plans to take its Oreca FLM09 Stateside, in what could potentially turn into a full-season effort.
The team, which has spent the last two seasons in the Eurocup Megane Trophy, stepped up to the European Le Mans Series this year with car owner Cornelius Jones and Dutchman Nicky Catsburg. On the heels of a podium finish in its LMPC race debut last month at the Red Bull Ring, Cox has outlined plans for an even more ambitious program for 2014.
“Daytona and Sebring are two of the most famous sports car races in the world,” Cox said. “But also, the way the whole American championship is, it’s amazing and is exactly the way it should be. It’s entertainment for the fans, it’s a great environment to work in. It’s a lot of fun. America is the place to be.”
Cox says the pieces for its prototype program began falling into place early this year when the team took delivery of a used PC car from ORECA and began an extensive testing program across Europe.
More than 3,500 miles were logged over 22 days of testing, primarily to help get Jones, the team’s gentleman driver, up to speed in the spec prototype, but with the ultimate goal to go racing in the States.
“As it was always [Cornelius’] ambition to do some races in America, we went over to Elkhart Lake to speak to the [USCR] people there about next year’s championship,” Cox explained. “They’re saying they want entries for the whole championship, not just for Daytona.
“I think USCR has to sell it as that kind of package and that’s where we need to be. I don’t think Europe has the kudos for sports car racing. Although there are quite a few LMP2 cars on the grid, I really look at them and see them struggling a bit financially.”
While the team plans to finish out the ELMS season, including next weekend’s round in Hungary, Cox says they are working to fill the remaining seats alongside Jones and Catsburg for Daytona and potentially additional USCR races next year.
A final decision on the scale of the team’s USCR PC program is likely to be made in the coming weeks.
Algarve Pro Racing is the first European prototype team to commit to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with additional interest already coming from a handful of ELMS and FIA WEC LMP2 squads as well.