Two sensational lead battles between diverse machines from three hallowed marques not only made Motor Racing Legends’ Pre-War Sports Car races among the most entertaining of the 6th Algarve Classic Festival but also provided the closest finish of the weekend on the world-class switchback circuit outside the coastal resort of Portimao.
Patrick Blakeney-Edwards borrowed Fred Wakeman’s Frazer Nash Super Sports, fresh from the American’s Castle Combe Autumn Classic victory, and – with former Historic Formula Ford racer Michael Grant Peterkin enlisted as co-driver – qualified it on pole position with a fine 2m28.863s shot.
The sister car of Steve Smith/Charles Gillett was their closest rival in practice, but (having subsequently had its Meadows engine’s cylinder head off for capacity checking) was disappointingly destined not to start following oil pump drive failure.
Germany’s Rudiger Friedrichs (Alvis Speed 20) almost matched their pace, however, and would step up to the plate with Robert Spencer (Bugatti T35) who joined him on row two of the 14-car field. Iain Stewart (Morgan Aero) and the T35C of Martin and Lukas Halusa headed the rest.
The grid was completed by the Aston Martins of Paul Chase-Gardener, Robert Blakemore (Speed Models) and Keith Piper (New International) and Bentleys in the hands of Richard Hudson/Stuart Morley, Clive Morley/MRL boss Duncan Wiltshire and Guy Northam, interspersed with Peter Mülder’s shapely BMW 328, the Lagonda of Nick Hine/Alan Brown and Chris Pearson’s Murtyl Austin Seven.
Saturday’s race saw a great lead battle evolve between Friedrichs and Spencer while Grant Peterkin found his feet in the Nash. They all stopped after seven laps, whereupon Blakeney-Edwards (who did not have to remain stationary for the soloists’ 15 second ‘equaliser’) resumed on Spencer’s tail. They jostled for position to the chequered flag, the Bug prevailing by 0.660s, with Friedrichs third, 12 seconds adrift.
Hudson/Morley also went the full 12 laps, moving ahead of Stewart’s three-wheeler when it stopped again. Chase-Gardener and the Halusa Bugatti finished sixth and seventh, four seconds apart, with Mulder, Blakemore and Morley/Wiltshire completing the top 10. The little Austin petered-out, but happily was back for Sunday’s stanza.
The complexion of race two was changed because Grant Peterkin was closer to the duelling Friedrichs and Spencer when he stopped first, five laps in. Blakeney-Edwards was 37.5 seconds adrift first time round, but his lightning stop presaged a 3m00.8s ‘out lap’ – to Spencer’s subsequent 3m17s and Friedrichs’ 3m19s – which, underscored by a 2m28.801s fastest lap, put Pat ahead by 13 seconds as his rivals resumed.
He charged ever further ahead as Friedrichs and Spencer locked horns again, but after numerous changed of order the German bagged the runner-up spot by 0.114s. Hudson/Morley, Halusa and Chase-Gardener all finished on the lead lap, pursued by Blakemore, Morley/Wiltshire, Hine/Brown and Northam. Pearson, Piper and Stewart – four-laps down after a remedial stop – all finished.