There are clear signs of green shoots in the increasing variety of cars in Motor Racing Legends’ Historic Touring Car Challenge series whose 2015 programme closed at the Algarve Classic Festival on October 23-25.
Briton Steve Dance, whose painstakingly-built 1972-spec Weslake-engined Ford Capri looks the part, shrugged off wet conditions to win both legs of the double-header.
The 21-car entry – bolstered by an affable bunch of Portuguese weekend warriors and three eager invitees – ranged from Swiss-based Dominique Guenat’s ’84 BMW 635CSi to the ’65 Ford Mustang of Belgium’s Christian Dumoulin, with much variety in between. Physically the smallest machine in the field was also the newest, Tony Hart’s Renault 5 GT Turbo, which proceeded to astonish with its giant-killing pace.
Second oldest car out was the 1970 Camel Rover P6, sister to Ian Giles’ and with Australian racing history, in the hands of dad-and-lad Alan and Andrew Strachan. Alas its V8 engine had ignition issues, so former Historic F1 preparer Alan trailered it after a few acclimatisation laps, not wishing to risk smoking a piston.
Talking of Rovers, Jonathan White’s Gitanes Vitesse (shared with renowned driving coach John Bussell) looked superb, as did the similarly-liveried Capri of Ric Wood and the sensational Jägermeister BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ of Irishman Peter Mullen and the versatile Patrick Blakeney-Edwards. Out for the first time was promoter Duncan Wiltshire’s Triumph Dolomite Sprint, restored by Dolly guru Ken Clarke in its 1974 Spa 24 Hours Butch tailoring colours, the wording of which some wag subtly altered during the event.
Quickest in qualifying, by a big margin, was local hero Joaquim Jorge in his hot Ford Escort RS, but it expired while chasing fast-starter Dance in Saturday’s wet opener, in which lap times were some 14 seconds slower. While Dance mastered the circuit to win by more than a minute, the Capris of Paul Pochciol (the UFO Jeans tribute machine started by former British Touring Car Championship racer James Hanson) and Wood finished abreast, Ric snatching the place by 0.006s! “And on my wet tyres,” said Pochciol, who had loaned them.
Rui Macedo Silva’s Porsche 911 RSR was classified fourth, first of the invitees, ahead of the Mullen/PB-E BMW and Robert Spencer’s gruff MGB GT V8. The White/Bussell Rover finished seventh, and Hart’s Renault 10th, but Clarke was stranded out on the circuit soon after taking Wiltshire’s Dolomite over. No Algarve event would be complete without Golfers and two pairs were spotted on the fairways. The VWs of Carlos Matos/Nuno Diogo de Matos and Rui Moura/Carlos Brizido were classified 12th and 13th.
Endeavouring to go one better in Sunday’s race, Wood survived a massive spin at the first corner, from which he picked himself up and continued in spectacular style before retiring the colourful Gitanes Capri.
Dance and Hanson had used their V6 power to get the drop on Jorge’s four-potter at the start, but Joaquim used his superior knowledge of the circuit to wriggle past. Jorge made his stop from the lead, only to be given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. With Dance comfortably on top in the closing stages Spencer dived past Pochciol and Macedo Silva on the final lap to nab second. Jorge’s stout recovery drive saw him land fourth – with fastest lap by 3.3s – as 1.2 seconds split Dance’s four pursuers in a photo finish.
Guenat gave his BMW some stick en route to a class-winning seventh, while Hart earned ninth and Wiltshire/Clarke 10th in the rejuvenated Dolomite Sprint. Mullen/Blakeney-Edwards were eventually listed as 15th in the orange BMW, but White’s Rover was parked after six laps having sustained early damage.