In an action replay of last year’s result, albeit in very different climatic conditions under sullen grey skies, diametrically-opposed machines from a golden era of sport topped Motor Racing Legends’ entertaining half-hour Pre-War Sports Car races at the 7th Algarve Classic Festival near southern Portugal’s Portimao resort on October 24-25.
In the blue corner sat the suave sophisticate, one of Ettore’s Bugatti’s fabled straight-eight Type 35Bs from Molsheim in France’s Alsace region. On the opposite side of the equation an example of British artisan constructor Archie Frazer Nash’s roustabout chain-driven Super Sports models proved equally effective on a challenging circuit made trickier by rain.
The Charles Gillett/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards FN claimed pole position, its 2m26.815s (70.89mph) best two seconds quicker than PB-E managed in Fred Wakeman’s sister car last October. Spencer was three seconds adrift at this stage.
Third quickest was Gareth Burnett in John Ruston’s Talbot 105 ‘GO52,’ half a second up on Rüdiger Friedrichs’ rapid Alvis Speed 20 SA. Richard Pilkington (Talbot Lago T26 SS) also lapped inside 2m40s, ahead of the closely-matched Lagonda LG45 of Nick Hine and his remarkable 84-year-old engineer Alan Brown and the aerodynamic BMW 328 of Peter Mülder.
Chris Lunn’s Talbot 105, the blue Bentley 3-litre of Duncan Wiltshire/James Morley and American Adam Lindemann’s Aston Martin Ulster completed the top 10. The Bentleys of soloists Alex Bell and Guy Northam, Christopher Scott Mackirdy’s Aston Martin Le Mans and the Austin Seven Murtyl Special of Chris Pearson gave valiant chase.
With his Aston Martin New International hors de combat, Keith Piper sportingly brought his delightful road version to join the fun in Portugal. “If it gets hot I can open the sunroof and if it breaks down I can get the picnic table out of the boot,” he said!
Spencer made light of a slippery track on Saturday, roaring away from Gillett/Blakeney Edwards to win by almost 41 seconds. Pilkington – who, last to stop, led for a couple of laps – and Friedrichs enjoyed a splendid scrap for third which the Briton won by 0.957s, despite his German rival’s best lap being 1.2s quicker. A couple of minutes later, Mülder came home fifth, the last unlapped runner.
Wiltshire/Morley, Lunn, Hine/Brown, Lindemann and Scott Mackirdy finished a lap down – the Astons after a lively early exchange – followed by Bell and Northam. Piper’s tourer expired after four laps, but already gone was Burnett who, having run third initially, pitted after two circuits and wasn’t seen again.
Sunday’s going was greasier still, more overnight rain on top of deposits from the previous evening’s endurance races creating a nasty cocktail on the surface. It proved Spencer’s undoing, for as he barrelled off the cambered downhill right-hand bend which leads onto the start/finish straight the Bugatti got away from him. “It spun five or six times into the pit entrance and hit the wall [lightly],” said Robert. Apparently unfazed, he drove to his pit, leapt out, noted a slight ding in one wheel and continued, setting the real fastest lap en route!
Gillett thus led for the first five laps until he stopped. Pilkington – who had done well to keep him in sight at various parts of the circuit – held the advantage for a lap until he pitted, whereupon Blakeney-Edwards prevailed to the chequer. Friedrichs, third initially, did not lose a place in the pits, but shot out behind class rival Pilkington then reeled him in and seized second on lap eight. Richard responded spiritedly, but couldn’t quite regain the place.
Mülder and Lunn went the full 11 laps in fourth and fifth, pursued by Morley/Wiltshire, Hine/Brown and Lindemann, thus eight different marques filled the top eight places. Given that the youngest car (the BMW aerodyne) is not far short of 80 years old it was a fantastic result.
A final talking point was the extraordinary fastest race lap credited to Alex Bell – whose Bentley 3/4½ was sharing a timing transponder with sometime ‘gNasher’ Richard Parsons’ Mini Cooper S in another race. While its signal was flagged-up as intermittent, nobody quite believed the figures of 1m16.158s (136.66mph) of which Lewis Hamilton, crowned F1 World Champion for the third time that day, would have been proud.