Once finished the English racing event of Silverstone with its anomalous number of entries and an uncertain weather forecast, the Classic Endurance Racing has made a stop in Portugal for the fifth round of the championship. On the Estoril circuit, preferred for this year with respect to the new circuit of Algarve, we saw only 29 cars on the track, even if, it must be said, that the only main competitors to miss the appointment were Watson/O’Connell, the recent winners just in the British country. On the contrary, among those who returned to the category, there were a great Bobby Rahal, the winner of 1986 Indy 500, who was at the wheel of a Lola T212, a twice champion of the category Luco in the Ligier, and the two regional drivers Barbot and Serafim Riberinho, the latter at the wheel of a splendid Porsche 934.
n spite of the few cars on the entry list, the surprises are certainly not missed because of the numerous mechanical problems which have damaged many of the leaders: during the qualifying sessions Lafargue has broken an engine and the propeller shaft, however, managing to gain a consoling fourth time. Guenat had prematurely to interrupt the second session and Scemama renounced to the race due to his engine failure, despite his mechanics’ efforts to replace it in the few hours preceding the start of the race. Thus pole position was taken by the Toj car of the tandem Wikins-Catlow followed by two regional drivers Barbot and Da Rocha, while in other classes the best times were set by Rahal in P1, Basso in GT2 and Ball among GT1 cars.
Unlike what had happened in the qualifying sessions, at the start of the race Catlow wasn’t particularly able to react and was easily overtaken by Barbot who took the lead, while Lafargue, as usual a fighting driver, made en error in the final stretch of the circuit which forced him to move back to the ninth position. A real unlucky weekend for the French driver who, after recovering the sixth position was obliged to give in because of the broken transmission. Ahead of everybody, after a fierce battle for five laps, Catlow took the first position, while Quiniou was in the lead of a small group of followers made by Da Rocha and Guenat. After a few laps Luco was also out, his Ligier suffered throughout the weekend with gear box problems: after gaining some positions at the start of the race, the driver had very soon to go back to pits, practically without gears. It didn’t go better for the crew made by Lacroix-Nicolet, forced to retire few laps before the end due to an unserviceable steer, as well as for their main rival Mahe, obliged to move to the pits because of mechanical problems. As usual pit-stops have revived a race that after its first skirmishes looked like to fall asleep: the Toj’s drive was given to Wilkins who handed over the first position to Barbot, trying, however, not to lose Barbot’s trail, while Guenat was able to get the better of Quiniou and Da Rocha by repeating the strategy of an anticipated pit-stop like at Silverstone. Meantime, the Portuguese was starting a fierce battle for the third place, Quiniou was the author of a spin during a double overtaking action which forced him to go to the pits and to the next abandon. While all drivers were concentrated on the fight for the third place, a surprise arrived from the lead of the race: on starting the last lap Barbot broke his 2nd gear and in spite of his hard resistance yielded to Wilkins on the exit of the small hairpin. It was an unexpected victory for the crew Wilkins-Catlow whilst Barbot seemed unlikely a defeat matured under such circumstances. Third step of the podium was gained by Guenat, who had held out against Da Rocha’s attacks in the last laps. The fifth classified car was in P1: the Lola driven by Rahal, the winner of the category with such a lead over his competitors so as to arrive to a double overtaking action over the rivals. There was the only exception of Thuner, second in P1, who has avoided the shame of double overtaking with only seven tenths of a second, after fighting throughout the race against Cazalieres, third, and Pierre Alain France fourth, delayed by a spin two laps before the end. In GT2, after an initial Riberinho’s vehement attack, later forced to retire, the win was of Basso, author of a splendid recovery in the first stage, he found himself to manage a remarkable advantage over Mr John of B with his Ferrari, in the last fifteen minutes. Finally, a look at the Cinderella of the race: the GT1 with a usual Ball who imposed his rhythm in his Ford GT40 and, after Nahun’s abandon at mid-race, gained a new win before the usual group of Porsches.