The Algarve Classic Festival 2012 was held October 19-21 at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao, Portugal. Renamed in its fourth year, the Algarve Classic (nee Historic) Festival is regarded by many as the finest historic motorsport event staged in the Iberian Peninsula.
The 2012 running of the Algarve Classic Festival saw a total of nine grids and 14 races on track, with an estimated 175 cars and 300 participants challenging the 18-turn, 2.915 mile Portimao circuit. Rain was the main protagonist for the nine races held during the final day. Yet, despite the adverse conditions, organizers called the Festival was the best in the four years it has been staged at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. Racing classes included JD Classic Challenge, Under 2-liter Touring Cars, Stirling Moss Trophy, GT and Sport Car Cup, Pre-War Sport Cars, Formula Junior, 1000KM, Iberian Gentlemen Drivers and the Campeonato Nacional de Clássicos 1300.
GT and Sports Car Cup – Race Report
The end-of-season GT and Sports Car Cup grid was one of many highlights found at the the 2012 historic races at Portimao. With an array of Pre-66 machinery to include two of the three Morgan Plus 4 SLRs produced, a lovely Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ, the nimble Lotus 11 Le Mans Series II and Elva Mk V, a Bizzarrini 5300 GT and an original aluminium riveted Iso Grifo A3/C, four AC Cobras and a very strong group of Jaguar E-Types.
The Clerk of the Course wisely decided to start the first three laps of the race under the safety car due to bad weather conditions, which made the race look very open. Front row sitters Leo Voyazides (AC Cobra) and Martin Melling (Jaguar E-Type Low-Drag) were overtaken by a very hot trio of E-Types, started by Frank Stippler, Martin O’Connell and Nathan Kinch, who led the first third of the race.
Stippler’s narrow lead came to an end when he pitted to retire Georg Nolte’s Jaguar with low oil pressure. Martin O’Connell entered the pit lane just before the 50 minute time limit, with Nathan Kinch hot on his tail. As co-drivers Sandy Watson and Larry Kinch exited the pit lane, Simon Hadfield, with an extremely quick driver change, who’d taken the wheel of Leo Voyazides AC Cobra the lap before, had already passed the pit exit and taken the lead as the two E-Types re took to the track. The black Cobra kept the lead to end the season with a well-deserved win. Father and son Larry and Nathan Kinch took a fine second, whilst Sandy Watson and Martin O’Connell completed the podium.
Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger drove a sensational race in their Morgan Plus 4 SLR in daunting track conditions, with fast laps throughout the 2-hour race, quick pit stops and not the slightest mistake, to move all the way up to 3rd overall on lap 27 and finish a credible 4th overall, winning the GT3 Class at the same time by a country mile.
Other notable performances were achieved by James Cottingham’s MG B and Bill Stephen’s Porsche 356 SC, which respectively finished first and second in the GT2 Class, whilst new comer to the GT and Sports Car Cup, Ian Dalglish shared his Lotus Elite with Oliver Bryant to win the GT1 Class.
Having broken his engine in practice, the Clerk of the Course allowed Stefan Ziegler to substitute his Jaguar E-Type with his Lister Jaguar Knobbly, which had raced in the Stirling Moss Trophy the evening before. Starting from the back of the grid, co-driver Sam Hancock moved up to 4th overall and set the fastest lap of the race. The Lister Jaguar looked set for a great result until it lost a lot of time with a puncture. It still managed to win the SP2 class and was awarded the Demon Tweeks sponsored GT and Sports Car Cup ‘Driver of the Day’ Silver Salver.
It is a testament to the ‘GT and Sports Car Cup’ and the quality and experience of the Drivers that there were no incidents during the race, as stated by Ross Warbuton, who successfully raced his stunning Jaguar E-Type Lightweight low drag (49 FXN), “Conditions were very tricky on Sunday morning and it is a credit to the series where people do actually try very hard to avoid contact and yet still race. Slower cars give you room, faster cars don’t swipe your front end off.”