Last week we reported on all the excitement and the magnificent atmosphere surrounding Porto WTCC round, itís hard to find words now to express how magical the ambience at the Boavista Circuit was this weekend. Under the same blue skies and next to the same calm sea, the track was opened to some of the most significant cars of motor racing history. From the fragile Pre-War machinery to the rawness of the 70ís F1 cars, all sorts of exciting cars would be on track, repeating the great show from 2 years ago when the circuit was revived.
The Boavista Circuit once hosted the Formula 1 championship back in the 60ís, along with some supporting races. All the most significant names of that era once drove here; flat out between walls and over tram tracks and cobbles, with only straw bales between them and the limits of a street circuit. The circuit security has moved on a lot from those days, but yet, driving some of those historic cars there is not for the faint of heart.
All of the weekend's action has been captured in this complete report and a 110-shot slideshow
The stars of the show
Since it was the first time the Grand Prix Masters were visiting this track, their race was probably the most anticipated. Amongst the most interesting cars were Ronnie Petersonís Lotus 76, James Huntís McLaren M26, Alan Jonesí Williams FW06 and also the two Fittipaldi Copersucars.
Still on Formula 1, but in the pre-66 class, all eyes were on Michael Schryverís Lotus 18, as he had been the winner of 2005 round. This particular car was the same with which John Surtees conquered the pole-position here, back in 1960, only to abandon the race later on. Another point of interest was the fact that a younger Schryver was contesting this race too. Will, Michaelís 25 year old son came to drive a Lotus 27 in the same race.
Another interesting car in the history of F1 races was the gorgeous Talbot T26, entered by Richard Pilkington. This car was raced by Fangio at Le Mans in 1951 and by Trintignant at Monaco in the following year.
For the Touring GT & Sports Classics race, everyone was expecting to see how the Zakspeed Escort BDG would face the local opposition with another 3 very strong similar Escorts.
For the Sports Racing Masters race another battle was expected between the 3 GT40s, the T70s and the big banger CanAm McLaren.
Probably the main star of the weekend was the Porsche 917K belonging to the local media-mogul and racing car driver Miguel Amaral. Internationally he is best known for driving his ASM-Team Quiffel LMP2 Lola at Le Mans and in the Le Mans Series. This was Amaralís first appearance in Portugal behind the wheel of his recently acquired Gulf livered machine and it was understandably surrounded all weekend by a huge crowd.
The Pre-War race was not an exciting one. Right from the start, the Aston Martin 2 litre driven by David Freeman and Russel Busst pulled a big gap from the second car on the grid, the BMW 328. The BMW team formed by the multiple FIA TGP champion Rodrigo Gallego and the former F1 driver Mario Araķjo Cabral, suffered from braking problems and could only defend the second place from the MG K1/K3 driven by Peter Ferichel and John Dutton.
Saturdayís Gentleman Drivers and Drum Braked Sports Car race was probably one of the most spectacular of the weekend. Though Julian Majzud had the pole with his amazing Sadler MKIII, it was the Shelby Cobra driven by Miguel Amaral and Mello Breyner that would soon take the lead. Hot on their heels were both the gorgeous E-type from Gary Pearson and Nigel Webb and the other nice Cobra driven by Chris Chilles Snr. and Jnr.. This luxurious leading group was being driven in a flamboyant style, leaving skidmarks all over as the three cars slid nose-to-tail at every corner of the narrow and dangerous circuit. However, the red Jaguar would soon take first place after passing the Portuguese Cobra from the inside, with a very tight line through Boavistaís first corner. It was with sadness that weíve seen the other Cobra driven by the brit family, being taken off this epic battle by the same tricky chicane that made so many victims over the previous weekend. So it was up to Jeremy Welch and Andrew Mason to take the last podium place with their ďdancingĒ Healey.
Saturdayís program closed with the Sports Racing Masters. Although the pole position belonged to Mark Clubb in his Elva MKVII, the race would be lead from the very beginning by Ray Bellm at the wheel of the pristine GT40 that was once driven by Carroll Shelby. Bellm lapped even his podium neighbours who, in the end, were the two T70 Spiders driven by Marc Devis and Marshall Bailey.
It was on an unexpectedly soaking surface that Martin Walford dominated the Lurani race of early Sunday. Mark Linstone in his Elva 200 was a whole minute behind and had to keep an eye on Duncan Rabagliatiís Alexis HF1 which finished 2 seconds behind.
Two years ago Michael Schryver was the fastest F1 driver of the weekend. This year he was happy with being the fastest pre-66 F1 driver. Although the Lotus 18 suffered from front braking failure preventing Schryver from doing more than a few laps during the qualifying, he still managed to lead Saturdayís race from the start, leaving Rod Jollyís Cooper T45/51 eight seconds behind. Third place would also be called Schryver. Young Will performed great, on what was just a sample of what he had to show on race two, when he was the perfect match for his father. Both would entertain the crowd by changing places four times, but in the end Michael imposed his larger experienceÖ and engine size. Rod Jolley, once again, didnít miss the podium.
The brutality of Grand Prix Masters cars prevented them to have a real race on Sundayís pouring rain. So the only official race happened on Saturday. During qualifying, the Portugal based Brit Bobby Verdon Roe placed his McLaren M26 on pole by a very safe margin over Steve Allenís Fittipaldi. The third place would be taken by the local Gallego who was back in his former car, a March 761, so he could race here. Although the cars were much different from the modern ones, the race was very similar to those we are now used to watch, as the top five places remained unchanged until the chequered flag.
For the Touring GT & Sports Classics was expected a nice battle between two Lolas T292 from two Portuguese drivers: Carlos Barbot and, once again Gallego. However, the last one didnít make it to the grid as his qualifying started in a burst of flames. While taking the first corner early in the morning, the Lola spun and once it stopped, the fire covered the rear half of the car. A scared Gallego jumped out of the car and helped to extinguish the flames that were caused by a loose fuel pipe. This incident seemed to have left a clear path to victory for Barbot. But he would have yet to defend himself from local hero Joaquim Jorge at the wheel of a new Escort MKI BDG. Since the shape of the track favoured the Lola, Joaquim was left with the time and space to perform is usual extreme oversteering show, making obvious why he is such a popular driver in his country. Behind him was a similar Escort well driven by Antůnio Coutinho. But the surprise came from the opposition he got from a well driven Mini in the hands of young star Pedro Salvador. The fact that he was driving a car with half the power of the Escort wasnít enough to keep him from fighting for third place. Reliability issues were, though.
Everyone was waiting to see Amaralís 917K on track. But what probably few expected was to see the car being driven at ten-tenths, performing one of the most extravagant track fights that we can remember. Opposition came from Richard Meins in his Lola T70. After both got rid of the more modest Chevron B8 driven by Simon Hadfield, the 917 was all over the Lolaís rear, with Amaral shaking the Porscheís tail aggressively. Even though using a too long gearing, the Portuguese managed to get ahead of Hadfield with a manoeuvre that included a lot of opposite-lock. It was one of those racing moments that are so perfect that almost make you misty eyed. The T70 driver would later see all his fun spoiled by a stop-and-go penalty due to a false-start. Even then, Miguel Amaral didnít back off and until the end of the race the stunning 917 kept performing some obscene powerslides. Behind the heavyweights, the hero was Anthony Hancock with his athletic Lotus 23B. With a spectacular driving, the British driver managed to steal 3rd place from Mike Wrigley in his B16.
Porto does have a lot going for itself to become a permanent fixture on the historic racing calendar. The usual nice weather, the immense crowd and the gorgeous background create a magnificent atmosphere only common with places like Monaco.
With such an extended and rich race program complemented with a lot of interesting entertainment moments, such as the classic car parades and the Red Bull F1 demo run, this was a weekend that weíll probably never forget.
After the huge delays of the previous weekends, everything went very smooth this time despite some unexpected drama like the heavy rain on Sunday morning. The organizers have obviously learned a lesson quickly. Hopefully they will also get their act together next time with the media accreditations; it was disturbing to see professional photographers on the wrong side of the fence and their Ďtrackí passes on the grandstands.
Having the nice weather as a nice pretext, itís worth including a weekend at Porto in your 2009 vacation plans.