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Honours shared in Portuguese HTCC races 

Turbocharged tin tops were in their element at the Algarve Classic Festival at which Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500) and Ric Wood/Adam Morgan (Nissan Skyline GT-R R32) won a Silverstone Auctions and Ric Wood Motorsport-supported Historic Touring Car Challenge race apiece on November 2-3.

George Pochciol/James Hanson (Ford Capri) came out atop the Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 set on both days, as did U2TC stars Andy Wolfe/Andrew Haddon (Ford Lotus Cortina). The 45-car field also embraced Portugal’s Group 1 series miscellany, ranging from Jaguar XJS to Datsun 1200s and a Peugeot 104ZS!

Everybody was saddened when Friday’s qualifying session saw the demise of Carey McMahon’s wonderful Sierra RS500, which the Australian had qualified fifth. Carey’s compatriot Brian Henderson was at the wheel when he cannoned off Neil Brown’s Lotus Cortina into John Brown’s Capri, which launched him into the gravel at Turn 15. Briefly unconscious, Brian was knocked about and sore, but happily returned to the circuit later in the weekend. The Sierra is already in surgery.

Racelogic boss Thomas and Lockie had claimed pole position, meanwhile, with a strong 2m03.100s (84.54mph) best in the immaculate Kaliber car originally raced by Guy Edwards and Andy Rouse. The Ford GAA-engined Capri RS3100 of Steve Dance came closest to the younger stablemate in the 2m04s.

The burly Rover SD1 of Patrick Blakeney-Edwards/Mike Grant Peterkin and Mark Smith/Arran Moulton-Smith in their shrill ex-Steve Soper BMW E30 M3 led the chase – having originally sandwiched the Benson & Hedges RS500 – with the Hepolite Rover Vitesse of Ken and Tim Clarke (another Soper car) seventh overall.

Two of the three TDT-contending Capri 3.0Ss were next up, Hanson (in Pochciol’s Esso car) shading John Spiers’ Hermetite version for class pole with a 2:15.565 (76.77mph) shot 0.306s beyond John’s reach. Amid seven successive Blue Oval products were the Historic Motor Racing News U2TC-leading Lotus Cortinas of Wolfe/Haddon 2:16.785 (76.09mph), Soper/Michael Gans and Richard Dutton. A mere 1.03s blanketed the trio, which crowded the Escort RS2000 of top locals Carlos Dias Pedro/Ricardo Pereira. Despite his Lotus Cortina being bingled from end to end by the yellow Sierra, Neil Brown wasn’t far adrift.

An undoubted star in the field was Jonathan Miles’ ex-works/Alan Mann Racing Ford Cortina Mk2 – raced by Belgian rising star Jacky Ickx and Australian Paul Hawkins for Team Lotus in ’67, then in Group 5 trim by another quick Aussie, Frank Gardner, in ’68 – shared by Tony Absolom. They qualified a stout 19th in good company. Also in the thick of the pack was East Anglian Ford fanatic Martin Reynolds in his very rorty big-arched Escort Mk1, carrying his trademark #27.

Best of the U2TC Mini Cooper Ss was that of Steve Jones, who posted 20th best time, eight tenths quicker than Peter Baldwin/Graham Churchill. Billy and Carl Nairn were third in the split, pursued by Ellie Birchenough in the Dorset Racing car shared with Mini ace Phil Dale. Two German-entered Alfa Romeo GTAs also graced the field, in the hands of Christian Oldendorff and Rebeca Rettenmaier.

Lurking at the back, however, was the spec-built Calsonic-liveried Nissan of Wood and BTCC ace Morgan. Ric was at the wheel when the car started to jump out of gear at the start of the Q session, then became jammed in fifth, thus he didn’t record a time. Far from disheartened, the spare box was installed overnight, leaving him the juicy prospect of an entertaining chase in the early stages of Saturday’s opening race.

It didn’t take long for the Skyline to impose itself once back-to-back safety car interludes (the second to retrieve the Nairn Mini from a tricky resting place) frustrated Thomas, Dance, Grant Peterkin and Smith at the head of the crocodile, with Pochciol, Ken Clarke and fast-starter Dutton next in the queue. Wood was sixth as green flags freed them, then second a couple of laps later when Dance and GP were the first of the frontrunners to make their mandatory stops. Ric relayed Morgan after eight laps with the instruction to chase down the Kaliber Sierra, in which Thomas ran long to 12 laps before installing Lockie.

Dance wriggled ahead through the pit stop phase as Calum was slightly delayed at the handover, but the Scot calmly reeled Steve’s sonorous Capri V6 in. Using its 560bhp impressively on the straights and climbs, Lockie sizzled ahead of the 3.4-litre machine on the final lap and acknowledged the chequered flag with it a scant 0.227s behind. Morgan finished within four seconds of the winner, describing the Nissan as “mega,” having set a stonking 2:00.160 (86.60mph) fastest lap last time round.

Smith/Moulton-Smith guided their Amspeed ‘Beemer’ home fourth, clear of the Rovers of Grant Peterkin/Blakeney-Edwards – which disappeared from the timekeepers’ radar for a lap initially, then reinstated when the error was found – and the Clarkes, with Tony Dron Trophy standouts Pochciol/Hanson seventh. Runner-up John and Charlie Brown were classified 12th, a lap down, in their Faberge-liveried Capri.

Wolfe/Haddon scooped U2TC gold, placing a tremendous eighth overall, with Brown and Gans/Soper the other podium finishers. Dias Pedro/Pereira and Reynolds split the Cortinas in ninth and 10th places. Churchill/Baldwin outran their Cooper S opposition, placing 18th and fourth in U2TC.

Sunday’s sequel started without the Thomas/Lockie RS500, on which a cracked brake disc was spotted after the previous day’s race. Replacements sent out from England by courier arrived at the team’s hotel overnight and were collected shortly afterwards, but mysteriously went missing, only to be dropped in the pit garage in the run-up to the race. Julian refused to be wound-up, but remained sanguine. “I didn’t much fancy the wet anyway,” he said.

Drizzle greeted the competitors who took the green flag, with Dance holding the initial advantage from Wood as they tore clear of the rest. Smith, Grant Peterkin, Tim Clarke, Wolfe, Pochciol, Spiers – moving up smartly – and Gans led the chase, with the quick Escort RSs of Joao Diogo Lopes and Dias Pedro scrapping mightily at the head of the Portuguese group in 10th and 11th.

Wood was ahead second time round and, with Dance having spun out, extended his advantage over Smith who put his lad in after seven laps. Wood pitted after nine and his team banged wets on the Nissan before Morgan resumed. “I wasn’t expecting so much grip. It was fantastic, I could do anything with it,” said Adam, who stormed back into the lead once the later stoppers had visited the garages and stormed on to a 32 second victory, Ric Wood Motorsport’s first with the R32. 

Both Grant Peterkin and Blakeney-Edwards had led in the green and blue South African spec Rover, but Moulton-Smith caught Patrick and grabbed second on the penultimate lap. Ken Clarke took over the yellow Rover late and claimed fourth, the last car to cover the winners’ full 16-lap distance.

Pochciol/Hanson took Tony Dron Trophy gold in fifth place, ahead of Reynolds and a posse of Portuguese racers headed by the Escort of Lopes/Filipe Martins, the plucky VW Golf GTI of Madalena Gaspar/Fernando Mayer Gaspar and Andre Castro Pinheiro’s Jaguar XJS V12. Wolfe/Haddon beat Gans/Soper by 15 seconds in the U2TC split, with Jones third in his Cooper S. Retirements included Spiers and Dutton who clashed having passed a Mini on either side mid-race.