Juan Manuel Correa and PREMA Racing fought to victory at Portugal’s Algarve International Circuit to win the final race of the 2022 European Le Mans Series.
The Italian-run Oreca LMP2 entry started second for the four-hour race after Louis Delétraz missed out on pole position by only 0.072 seconds in Saturday’s qualifying session.
After making his debut at the series’ previous event at Spa, Correa was entrusted to start the race and navigated treacherous conditions as soon as rain began to fall on the starting grid.
By adopting a careful and measured approach, the American-Ecuadorian driver ascended to an early lead but slipped to second after being passed by the #43 Inter Europol Competition Oreca of Pietro Fittipaldi.
At the close of the first hour, Correa held third but when the #6 360 Racing Ligier went into the gravel, a second Full Course Yellow (FCY) was deployed to neutralise the race.
In a strategy masterstroke, Correa pitted to hand over to team-mate, Ferdinand Habsburg, who chased down and repassed the #43 Oreca to take second.
A third FCY, this time caused by the #47 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca, facilitated another pitstop for PREMA Racing and placed Habsburg at the head of the field with a 35-second advantage.
He later handed over to Deletraz who powered to victory in the final stint of the race, with Correa taking his first win in endurance racing and PREMA winning the European Le Mans Series championship.
"It feels good. It was a very good race, a really tricky one with mixed conditions, but we managed it well,” said Correa.
“I felt extremely comfortable and I even ended up with the fastest lap, which is a little bonus for me.
“I'm really happy to get my first win in endurance, and doing it with PREMA is really special, also helping the team to win the championship.
“It was my main goal, and we got that done. I'm very pleased. A big thank you to the whole team and my teammates. It has been one hell of a ride!"