Algarve Classic Festival

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The Algarve Classic Festival is a most agreeable finale to the European historic racing season.  Rain or shine, sometimes both, southern Portugal is warm in late autumn and the sensational Autodromo Internacional, opened in 2008, is a favourite among drivers and teams.  This year’s event – promoted by Diogo Ferrao’s Race Ready concern – moved to the first weekend of November.  While some grids were weak (in part due to cross-border movement uncertainty in what was supposed to be post-October 31 Brexit) the best action was tremendous. 

GTSCC Tops the bill.  Photos Eric Sawyer

That accolade was the GT & Sports Car Cup’s, devoid of the Sports cars, but long on quality within a 33-car field – the top three split by 0.708s in qualifying – of which 29 battled for two hours on Sunday morning.  The race started impressively, with the Jaguar E-types of Richard Kent and Gary Pearson (in Carlos Monteverde’s) the Oxford and Cambridge blue AC Cobras of Chris Chiles and James Cottingham and polesitter Frank Stippler in Georg Nolte’s Bizzarrini slugging it out for the lead.

Kent led into a drizzly patch during which Cottingham passed Stippler and went ahead.  Forty minutes in, 5.7 seconds separated Cottingham, Kent, Stippler and Chiles.

Nolte and Chiles Jr took over the third and fourth placed cars, then Bryant supplanted Cottingham.  When Ward took over Kent’s car the surface was drying and he screamed past Bryant to grab the lead on lap 29, although Olly clung on, setting fastest lap.  The Chiles Cobra, 2019’s Algarve winner, was going strongly when transmission failure struck as Simon Garrad prepared to take it to the chequered flag.

In the Sports Car race none of the older V8 machines could match the pace or agility of a Cosworth FVC- motivated B19 in Historic F1 racers Max Smith- Hilliard and Nick Padmore’s hands

As the clock ticked down, Cottingham and Kent resumed their dogfight, James snarling ahead of Richard as light rain returned.  Yet Kent dug ever deeper, eroding a six second deficit to the pale blue car as they dealt with lapped traffic.  The Cobra crossed the finish line 1.334 seconds ahead of the Jaguar to a tumultuous reception from crews lining the pit wall.

GTSCC gold was not the weekend’s first success for Cottingham.  The previous afternoon – on the circuit’s 11th birthday – he and Harvey Stanley won the one-hour Pre-‘63 GT race in the DK Engineering Jaguar E-type.  This was not straightforward either, for his young team-mate picked up a drive through penalty for crossing the white line at the pit exit as he roared into his stint.  The imposition looked to have cost them the race, for Gary Pearson howled ahead in Carlos Monteverde’s Ferrari 250 GTO, only for second gear to shatter, ending its run for the second successive year.

Richard Bradley blitzed both non-championship Formula Junior races in his Brabham BT2

MRL’s two-hour ‘50s Sportscar enduro on Saturday evening rewarded Richard Kent and Chris Ward, who made the running from the start in the Kent family’s Lister-Jaguar Costin, a chassis originally configured to take a Maserati engine which was never fitted.  Any thoughts of a Lister one-two were quickly scotched when Justin Maeers charged his Cooper T49 Monaco past Carlos Monteverde’s on the opening lap.

Charlie Martin must have been drinking supercharged carrot juice to keep the Cooper flying as darkness descended, for its headlights were feeble.  He did keep second, however, leaving Monteverde/Gary Pearson third ahead of Bernardo Hartogs/Will Nuthall (Lotus 15).  

Gary Pearson howled ahead in Pre-’63 GT race in Carlos Monteverde’s Ferrari 250 GTO, only for second gear to shatter

UK-based Brazilian Hartogs and Nuthall had exercised Bernardo’s late-built Ford GT40 in anger for the first time earlier in the day and did well to win the 46-car Iberian Historic Endurance opener, fragmented by full-course yellows.  At the final green, Nuthall narrowly repelled Frank Stippler in Georg Nolte’s GT40 in a field that embraced a posse of glorious Porsche 911 3.0 RSs to Frenchman Vincent Tourneur’s hand-controlled 356.  

Sunday’s race, also punctuated by the safety car following first lap spins, saw Hartogs/Nuthall double-up.  

 The traditional Algarve Pre-‘75 sportscar contest featured a trio of McLaren-Chevrolet M1Bs ranged against classic Chevrons.  None of the older V8 machines could match the pace or agility of a Cosworth FVC-motivated B19 in Historic F1 racers Max Smith-Hilliard and Nick Padmore’s hands.  Eighteen-year-old saloon car graduate Bradley Burns chased hard, first time out in Chris Drake’s ex-Dave Causey McLaren which they are set to share in next year’s FIA Masters Championship.  John Emberson/Bill Wykeham (B19) finished third, pursued by Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (B8), John Spiers (M1B) and Portuguese resident John Sheldon (B16).  

Richard Kent and Chris Ward made the ‘50s Sportscar running from the start in the Kent family’s Lister-Jaguar Costin

Undaunted by a massive ELMS crash at the circuit the previous weekend, Richard Bradley blitzed the slim non-championship Formula Junior races in his Brabham BT2.  Alex Ames (Lotus 22) and Chris Drake (Terrier) disputed second on both days.  French ex-Historic F1 racer Patrick d’Aubreby (Lotus 22) was gifted third when Ames’ throttle cable snapped on Saturday.`

Well-supported Campeonato de Portugal de Velocidade Classicos (1965-‘81) and Legends (82-‘99) double-headers boasting diverse fields were also on the bill.  Carlos Viera in one of several fantastically-liveried Ford Escort RSs powered by screaming BDG engines beat the Porsche 911 brigade in the CPVC opener, but spun on the opening lap of its sequel in which Joao Macedo (911) prevailed.  Vasco Barros and his Mercedes-Benz 190 Evo DTM were unstoppable in CPVL, try as father Luis (Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500) did on day one.

Ford Sierra RS500 and Nissan Skyline GT-R head HTCC

Turbocharged tin tops starred in the Historic Touring Car Challenge races.  Calum Lockie’s last-gasp victory in Julian Thomas’ Kaliber Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 over Steve Dance’s Capri GAA in Saturday’s opener animated onlookers.  Meanwhile, Ric Wood/Adam Morgan (Nissan Skyline GT-R R32) scorched ominously from the back of the 43-car field to third, with fastest lap, following gearbox failure in qualifying.

The Thomas/Lockie Sierra was missing on Sunday, a replacement brake disc couriered from England having ‘gone astray’ between its overnight delivery until shortly before the pre-grid was called.  “With rain due I wasn’t overly sorry,” said Julian, who watched Wood/Morgan notch a well-deserved maiden victory in the Calsonic tribute-liveried Nissan which debuted at the Silverstone Classic.

Andy Wolfe/Andrew Haddon were the class of the concurrent 10-car U2TC race.  The Lotus Cortina duo finished a brilliant eighth overall on Saturday and 12th in Sunday’s changing conditions, which favoured HTCC/TDT cars and the best of the Portuguese Gp1 contenders.  Neil Brown and Michael Gans/Steve Soper, also in Cortinas, were second and third on day one.  Steve Jones’s Mini Cooper S scrabbled home to bronze on Sunday, beating Saturday class winners Graham Churchill/Peter Baldwin.  


For a fuller report see out December 2019 issue

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