October 21 - 22 - 2016

Estoril Classic Festival




A trip south to Portugal as the summer fades was a delightful finale event for the 2017 European season. The Estoril circuit did not disappoint at this popular and exciting new venue for Masters,


Jason Wright wins first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Estoril as on-the-road winner Martin Bullock gets demoted

 Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) was handed the win in the first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race of the Estoril Classic festival in Portugal when surprise winner-on-the-road Martin Bullock (Williams FW06) was given a time penalty for causing a collision on the first lap.

Starting from fifth on the grid, Bullock had come through to take the chequered flag in first place after a demon start saw him take third at the first corner. The Australian then muscled his way past Max Smith-Hilliard’s Fittipaldi F5A, but Smith-Hilliard was forced to retire as a result of the contact. When Nick Padmore’s Shadow DN5, which had led away from pole, dropped out on lap 6 with clutch failure, Bullock inherited a lead that he never relinquished.

Padmore had opened up 17-second gap to Bullock when he returned to the pits on lap 6. This handed the Williams driver a five-second lead on Manfredo Rossi’s Lotus 80, but the Italian began dropping away on the same lap before grinding to a halt on lap 8.

Now Joaquin Folch (McLaren M19C) was second, but with Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8 in hot pursuit. On lap 10, the Italian finally passed the Spaniard’s much older machine.

 “We had a nice fight, Joaquin and me”, said Wright. “We’ve been doing this for a long time, the first time we raced against each other was way back at Montlhéry of all places but we never really fought each other on the track. I should have been gone, really, but in the end I got him coming out of the back straight. He left the door open like a true gentleman, it was real motor racing.”

 “I was everywhere!”, Folch laughed. “The car has no significant aero… It’s fast on the straights, that’s how I kept him behind. I’m practising for Monaco, really – and this was good practice!”

 Wright then found that he was rapidly closing the gap to Bullock in the lead. The Australian looked like he was in trouble but with three laps to go suddenly rediscovered his pace and left his pursuers with no chance. After 15 laps, Bullock took the chequered flag by some five seconds.

 “I had the sun in my eyes”, Bullock explained, “so I didn’t realise I was in the lead. That’s why I slowed down! Then I saw the white car [of Jason Wright] behind me and thought, ‘I’d better speed up again!’. “I got a really good start”, Bullock said of his first lap. “And then I got into a fight with Max. It was a bit of a nudge, nothing really serious.”

 The stewards, however, thought otherwise and handed Bullock a time penalty that dropped him to third behind Wright and Folch.

 In a race of attrition, just five cars made it to end, Paul Tattersall stealing fourth place from Michel Baudoin (Hesketh 308) on the penultimate lap, his Ensign N179 having lost ground after a pitstop on lap 5. Both Tattersall and Baudoin were a lap down on the winner.

Wilson/Pittard Elan 26R takes Masters Three Hours at Estoril

 In a race with two faces, Graham Wilson and David Pittard took final Masters Three Hours honours at Estoril, as their Lotus Elan 26R held off the similar car of Mark Martin and Andrew Haddon. Danny Gibson had led during his opening stint but handed a brakeless Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé over to father Paul. Despite a couple of offs, Gibson Sr still managed to finish a distant third.

 In damp qualifying, the nimble Elans had danced their way onto the front row of the grid but under the Portuguese morning sun on race day the more powerful Cobras soon found their way to the front. Danny Gibson in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé he shared with father Paul stormed into the lead right at the start, and after six laps the CRC Cobras of Chris Chiles Jr & Sr (Senior starting)/Paul Ingram and Dominic Barnes/Jamie McIntyre (with Barnes at the wheel) were Gibson’s closest pursuers. Close was a relative term, though, as Gibson had built up a 20-second lead 15 minutes into the race, which increased to 40 seconds at the first half hour, as Barnes took over second place from Chiles Sr on lap 10.

Gibson then began to stabilise his lead as at the 45-minute mark the Chiles/Chiles Cobra came in for its first pitstop, dropping them down to seventh. With one hour of racing done, however, Chiles Jr was back into fifth place. However, a lengthy second pitstop at the halfway mark turned into premature retirement for the father-and-son team.

Meanwhile in CLP class, Graham Wilson and Mark Martin kept each other honest in their opening stints, running in fourth and fifth once the Cobras got ahead, often with no more than two seconds between them. On lap 34, 75 minutes into the race, Martin finally found a way past Wilson.

 “Yes, it was a great fight”, Martin said. “And then he hit me! But it was OK, it was just a little hit.”

 “Backmarkers came into play”, Wilson explained. “We were very close in performance.”

 Five minutes before half distance, the two pitted simultaneously, during which their car switched positions, David Pittard getting ahead of Andrew Haddon before going on to set fastest lap of the race.

 The race then changed face when Danny Gibson handed the Cobra Daytona Coupé over to father Paul, now with a full lap in hand on Pittard and Haddon, who had both swept past the AC Cobra that Dominic Barnes had handed over to Jamie McIntyre. Running up to ten seconds a lap quicker than Gibson Sr, Pittard was reeling in the Cobra Daytona Coupé fast, and then on lap 48, found himself in the lead when Gibson went off and took ages to rejoin the track.

 Two laps later, Haddon – also quicker than Gibson – relieved the American V8 of second place as well. And then on lap 54, a second off for Gibson Sr and a resulting pitstop to have the car checked led to him losing another place, this time to McIntyre. However, on lap 60, McIntyre pulled off his Cobra at turn 3, handing third place back to Paul Gibson.

 “No brakes!” said Gibson. “I was going to retire the car, but they said ‘Come on, you’re third or fourth, carry on!’…”

 “There wasn’t a lot of the car left over when I handed it over”, said the younger Gibson. “No brakes and no rear tyres. I was pumping the brakes from lap 2…”

Towards the end, Pittard allowed his lead on Haddon to occasionally drop under 20 seconds, but his lead was back up to 32 seconds at the finish. Gibson hung on to third place in his battle-scarred Cobra Daytona Coupé, four laps down. On the back of a troublefree run, the Elan of Roger Barton and Richard Bateman took fourth ahead of the Ginetta G4R of Pierre and Laurent Dutoya, which temporarily ground to a halt on lap 73, losing the Frenchmen fourth place to the Barton/Bateman Elan.

 “I wasn’t sure where each car was during the pitstops”, said Pittard, “but we managed to pip the other guys in the pitlane. And then we got the Daytona almost right after the pitstops.”

 “And then the car took care of you”, Wilson said to his young charge.

 The C1 class was quickly decided in favour of the Steve Jones/Robert Barrie Porsche 911 as the rivaling 911 of Manfredo Rossi/Pietro Vergnano was forced into a lengthy 7-lap pitstop on lap 10, with Vergnano at the wheel. Jones and Barrie’s faultless run handed them sixth overall. A valiant recuperating effort by Rossi helped him overtake the Francisco Sa Carneiro/João Cannas 911 on the final lap, handing him ninth overall.

Despite a couple of additional pitstops, the Rob Fenn/James Barclay Ford Mustang was dominating the touring-car section, the pair leaving the Bernardo Hartogs/Will Nuthall Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA in their wake, until a fourth pitstop with 20 minutes still on the clock proved fatal. This handed Hartogs and Nuthall an unexpected touring-car win, while also taking seventh overall.

 “We were one of the slower cars in the field, but you’ve got to finish”, said Nuthall. “And we did overtake a couple of people!”

 The Shelby Mustang GT350 of David Allen and Paul Chase-Gardiner looked to take sixth as second of the big cars but agonisingly, the three-hour race proved to be five minutes too long for them. They were still classified eighth overall.

 The single runners in C2 failed to finish. In the opening half, Keith Ahlers kept himself busy by fighting the Jeremy Cooke/Mike Dowd Lotus Elan and the Pierre & Laurent Duyota Ginetta G4R, but the Morgan SLR failed to start again for Billy Bellinger’s stint. When Bellinger finally got going he got himself up to a distant eighth but ten minutes before the end parked the Morgan at turn 6.

Rossi dominates FIA Masters Historic Sports Car season-closer at Estoril

Fresh from taking the championship in the FIA Lurani Trophy for Formula Junior cars, Manfredo Rossi jumped straight into his Abarth-Osella PA1 to dominate the final FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race at Estoril. Driving like a man inspired, Rossi took the lead on lap 2 and never looked back, opening up a 32-second gap at the chequered flag to second-placed man Jason Wright (Lola T70 Mk3B).

 “I came out of the Junior car full of adrenalin! That was perfect. The car was super good”, said a jubilant Rossi right after the race, before adressing Jason Wright. “I fell asleep on you last time [at the Nürburgring], but it wasn’t going to happen this time!”

Initially, Wright tried to keep with Rossi, as he kept the gap under 10 seconds during the first part of his opening stint but then had to let the Italian go.

“It’s the right track for that car, it’s so agile”, said Wright. “I’ve got more top speed but there’s too much twisty stuff here. Trying to stay with him hurt the brakes, resulting in a bad tyre vibration. The car was shaking to pieces at the end.” 

Rossi’s work was made slightly easier when two of his Lola T70 Mk3B-equipped rivals dropped out within the time frame of four laps. Pole man Mike Donovan led away from the start but hit the wall in the first corner at the start of the second lap while Paul Gibson retired his car on lap 4 with a suspected head-gasket failure.

Ross Hyett’s Chevron B16 took third overall while also winning the battle for Siffert class honours. Initially battling with the B16 of Italians Emanuele and Giampaolo Benedini, Hyett followed Emanuele Benedini closely before taking over third place shortly after the pitstops, with brother Giampaolo behind the wheel of the Chevron that gradually slipped down to sixth place.

“It was very, very close. Emanuele drove very well”, said Hyett. “A great battle, we gave each other space. But I knew his brother was slower so my real race was with him. And can I just say that this is a great circuit, and the people have been so welcoming.”

Contact with Emanuele Benedini in the opening laps didn’t prevent Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger from taking a strong fourth and the Hulme class win in their Cooper Monaco King Cobra. The win also secured the pair’s second consecutive FIA Masters Historic Sports Car title.

“Yes, we did it!” said Ahlers. “And we did it in style, with a win! Billy did a good stint but when I got into the car the sun was so low over the pits, I had no idea what was going on behind me. I was expecting Andy [Wolfe] and Laurie [Bennett] to come through any minute, so I just drove as hard as I could.” 

As it was, Ahlers’ lap times in the opening part of his stint were similar to those of Andy Wolfe in the pursuing Lola T70 Mk1 Spyder that Wolfe shared with Graham Wilson on this occasion, and only towards the end Ahlers tailed off when his brakes began to fade. He kept four seconds in hand at the flag. Laurie Bennett’s McLaren M1B was a distant third in class.

“I was trying to see how many laps I had left”, said Wolfe, “and then the flag came out!”

“The race was hot and hard”, said Bennett, “but the car went well. No dramas, no scratches, I’m really happy with it.”

Respective Bonnier and Pescarolo class honours went to Pierre and Laurent Dutoya (Elva Mk8) and Aaron and Dale Head (Porsche 911 RSR) while the Portuguese Lotus 47 entry of Conçalo Gomes and James Claridge caused a brief scare by catching fire on lap 16.

Padmore triumps in final race of FIA Masters Historic Formula One season at Estoril

Nick Padmore (Shadow DN5) took the spoils in the final FIA Masters Historic Formula One race of the season at Estoril after a race-long dice with team mate Max Smith-Hilliard (Fittipaldi F5A) that thrilled the Portuguese crowd.

“That was great fun”, said Padmore on swapping places with Smith-Hilliard three times. “The crowd wanted to see a good race, and I hope we put on a good show.”

Much to his delight, Max Smith-Hilliard became the new pre-78 champion by taking second place.

“I have better drivers behind me in the championship”, said a magnanimous Smith-Hilliard, “but we’ve had the reliability. I think it was 50/50 with Greg Thornton on wins, and it would have been great if he had been here instead of at Austin.”

The Forza Historic Racing pair was followed home by Martin Bullock’s Williams FW07. The Australian kept Smith-Hilliard honest in the opening stages and only at the end began to lose ground. The race was red-flagged with 2.53 minutes still on the clock when Paul Tattersall’s Ensign N179 stopped in a dangerous position on the track.

“My race was OK”, said Bullock. “I was pressured early on by the McLaren [of Joaquin Folch] and then couldn’t catch those two guys in front. It’s a shame we didn’t get to the chequered flag so we could wave to the marshals and the crowd. There are really lots of people here!” 

A fight for fourth place between Joaquin Folch’s McLaren M19C and Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8 ended in contact on lap 7, when the five leading cars were still split by a mere four seconds. Folch was able to continue and finished a distant fourth but Wright was forced to retire his car on the next lap. 

Despite his problem, Tattersall was still classified fifth on countback, ahead of Michel Baudoin’s Hesketh 308 and Philippe Bonny’s Trojan T103.