Algarve Historic Festival

Portimão, Portugal

The Algarve Historic Festival at the magnificent Portimão circuit is the perfect way to bring another historic racing season to a close. Largely thanks to indefatigable promoter Francisco Santos, this year’s festival attracted a record number of cars and drivers.

There was something new for 2011 – a shower of rain. Never seen that here before. And drivers of the quicker cars complained of a bumpy track. Reassuring this, in that all the great circuits have never been billiard-table smooth. Also new was a VIP Drivers’ Club which went a long way to smoothing out those bumpy braking areas…

Much attention was focused on the FIA Historic Formula One cars, mainly because an F1 car in the right hands can be used to the full at Portimão. Bobby Verdon-Roe was devastated when a gremlin in the fuel system of his McLaren MP4/1B put him out of the first race, won superbly by Hideki Yamauchi (March 761). But Verdon-Roe ran away in race two, setting fastest lap, until the drive from the engine to the fuel pump let him down again. Nathan Kinch (McLaren MP4/1B) won after a good fight with Joaquin Folch (Brabham BT49).

Roger Wills and Rod Jolley are always good to watch in their pre-1966 F1 Coopers, the pair finishing second and third behind Alasdair McCaig’s T53 in the first race. In race two Wills had a horrible accident, rolling and catching fire before coming to rest between two marshals posts. Thanks to the bravery of marshal João Caracol, Wills escaped with bruising and minor burns. Caracol means snail in Portuguese, but it was the speed of this man that saved Wills from more serious injury.

Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield won three races in the Greek’s Lotus Cortina, AC Cobra and Lola T70. A great drive from Voyazides in the Cobra took him to victory from the back of the field, while local driver Gonçalo Gomes impressed in his first outing in a Lola T70. Bob Berridge triumphed in the Group C race despite a lengthy pitstop in the Sauber-Mercedes C11, which looked a handful over the bumps. American John Delane, keeper of the early F1 Tyrrells, retained his Lurani Formula Junior title without winning a race in his Lotus 18.

Win or lose, real racers love the end-of-season challenge and the sunshine of Portimão.