The Pre-War Sports Car race at the 2012 Algarve Classic Festival saw the closest race finish of the entire event, with less than four seconds covering the first three cars. But the biggest news for race organiser Duncan Wiltshire, of Motor Racing Legends, was that he himself finished in second place: his first podium position in 21 years of racing – and a mere tenth of a second behind the winner. So near and yet so far…
Wiltshire managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in conditions of heavy rain, which tipped down on the circuit for most of the Sunday of the Festival. This was in stark contrast to Saturday’s warm sunshine, when ‘part one’ of the Pre-War Sports Car race decided the starting grid of Sunday’s ‘part two’.
In pole position on Sunday was Sue Darbyshire, driving solo in her famously quick three-wheeler Morgan Aero. Next to her on the starting grid was the BMW 328 Sports of David and James Cottingham, with Paul Chase-Gardener and David Allen third on the grid in their Aston Martin Speed 15/98 – and the Bentley 3/4½ of Clive Morley and so-nearly-a-hero Duncan Wiltshire lying fourth (despite a pit-lane speeding penalty for Mr Wiltshire in Race One).
When the Race Two pit-stops came around, Clive Morley handed the Bentley over to Wiltshire and – thanks to another pit-lane speeding penalty, this time for Sue Darbyshire – our Duncan found himself in first place. Only he didn’t know it.
“I had no idea I was driving for a win,” said Wiltshire afterwards. “The Algarve circuit snakes back on itself, so it’s ideal for looking back to see who is coming up behind. When I saw Sue Darbyshire close behind, I assumed I was being lapped – but in fact she’d had a drive-through penalty, and I was leading the race.”
It is perhaps a good thing that Wiltshire didn’t realise how close he was to winning, since he had wisely decided to ignore everyone else and, in the heavy rain and standing water, just drive to the conditions – “I didn’t want to end up in a big tangle in the gravel”, he explained.
But closing fast on the Bentley – by about four seconds per lap – was the nimble Aston Martin Speed, expertly driven by David Allen. In the immortal words of Duncan Wiltshire, “David got by me some three bends from the end, but I hauled him back – thanks to the Bentley’s sheer grunt. We crossed the line neck and neck, David pipping me to the post by 0.122 of a second. I thought we were fighting for second place but, if I’d had another 50 yards before the finishing line… I’d have won.”
But he didn’t. The Aston took the chequered flag, with the Morley/Wiltshire in second place, and the heroic three-wheeler Morgan of Sue Darbyshire just 3.5 seconds behind, in third.