Two 30-minute races, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday of the meeting, gave the HTCC (Historic Touring Car Challenge) drivers a real chance to learn this ultra-challenging circuit. Race 1 results decide the grid for Race 2 – and when the Ford Escort of brothers Dan and Robert Brown managed only five laps before withdrawing from Race 1, it left the two Cologne Capris very much in charge.
The JD Classics-entered Capri was in the hands of Andrew Smith (his first time out in this car and very excited about the opportunity) and Alex Buncombe – equally thrilled to be at the wheel of this car since his father, saloon car driver Jonathan Buncombe, raced it in period. The second Capri was driven by ‘local boy’ Antonia Nogueira, who unsurprisingly has intimate knowledge of this tricky circuit and was therefore able to put in a close fight to the line in Race 1, though it was Buncombe and Smith who took the chequered flag.
No one got near to challenging these two expertly driven and ferociously quick cars in Saturday’s race, and hence Race 2, the following day, provided the terrific sight of the two Cologne Capris side by side as the race started… with the Buncombe-Smith car on pole.
The drive of the race, however, was surely the determined performance put on by Dan and Robert Brown who – starting from the back of the grid after their disappointment in Race 1 – drove like demons from the outset, gaining place after place on the grid to finally finish second. This was only after a monumental battle with the Escort Mk1 RS driven by (and here it gets complicated) the boys’ father Sean Brown, sharing with… Robert Brown. Yes, Robert drove two cars, to finish both second and third.
Whether this result would have been possible without an erroneous pit-stop by Noguiera in response to a black and white warning flag (simply a warning, not an instruction to pit) is uncertain. But as Noguiera chose not to return to the race, it left the way open for the Buncombe-Smith Capri to scoop victory, followed by the heroic pairing of Dan and Robert Brown in their sprightly Ford Escort and the father-and-son team of Sean and Robert Brown in third.
Duncan Wiltshire of Motor Racing Legends, which runs the HTCC, commented after the race: “Although the size of the grid was much diminished by a number of entries forgoing the HTCC in favour of a Portuguese championship race at the same meeting, there were enough cars – particularly on such a fabulous circuit – to ensure it was a really exciting race for both competitors and spectators. We look forward to returning with a bigger grid next year.”
The top five finishers at the end of Race 2 were:
1) Car no.3 – Ford Capri driven by Alex Buncombe and Andrew Smith
2) Car no.35 – Ford Escort driven by Dan Brown and Robert Brown
3) Car no.85 – Ford Escort Mk1 RS driven by Sean Brown and Robert Brown
4) Car no.2 – Jaguar TWR XJS driven by Chris Ward and J.M. Young
5) Car no.45 – Chevrolet Camaro driven by Alec Hammond