This month, Joes explains how crucial a driver’s role can be at Portimão, and why, as he himself discovered a few years ago, why it’s important to avoid a trip to see the Race Stewards.
Words – Joe Bradley
Images – Petr Frýba
With the dust barely settled in North West France from Toyota's fifth consecutive victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, all our attention now moves to the Iberian Peninsula. To be exact, the Algarve region of Portugal and the Portimão circuit for another twice-around-the-clock endurance sportscar race.
The demands of the twists, turns and the now infamous undulations of the Algarve venue have become a popular feature on the 24H SERIES calendar, and indeed across the broad spectrum of motorsports on both two and four wheels. Drivers speak of comparisons with the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps, purely down to the drastic changes in altitude as the circuit rises and falls quite dramatically. It’s a real drivers’ circuit, somewhere the driver can make a real difference.
Ferraris have always gone well at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, with three consecutive wins for the Scuderia Praha team in 2017, 2018 and 2019 (only Herberth Motorsport’s win with Porsche in 2020 spoils the Ferrari party).
It has never been a thing for me to predict a winner of any long-distance race, given that there are so many factors that can come into play. You have probably heard me say many times that ‘endurance races are won on the pit wall.’ I'd like to add that it helps a lot if your drivers do a great job, stay on the track, drive faster than everyone else, and don't crash. Then consider that we have to rely on all those nuts and bolts holding together as well, it’s a wonder we have any finishers at all after 24 hours.
This is perhaps what makes long-distance motor race so exciting in quite a subtle way. You have no idea what is about to happen and there is an abundance of potential for anything to happen.
I've worked with drivers who have added a further layer of potential, one that’s often led to a trip to the Clerk of The Course or the Race Stewards. In fact, one particular chap thought himself quite the suave charmer who could talk his way out of anything, which I may add you can never do with any racing officialdom.
On the way to see the Stewards I advised my driver not to try and wriggle out of whatever they were about to tell him he'd done wrong. It turned out he had overtaken under a yellow flag, for which which he apologised, said he was very sorry and that he would endeavour to be more careful in the future.
Nonplussed, the Steward just couldn't understand how my driver had not seen the waved yellows:
“Did you really not see the waved yellow flags?”
“No sir, I’m sorry, I didn’t see them,” he replied.
“Did you not see the bright yellow JCB tractor recovering the vehicle from the gravel trap?”
“Oh yes, I saw the tractor!”
What my driver neglected to mention was that he actually did need his eyes tested, and that, for vanity reasons, he simply refused to wear his spectacles at the track.
Yes, his licence was endorsed
We have strong entries in all of our classes and as ever, I will be making no predictions other than it is going to be a very exciting 24 hours where, as usual, anything can happen, and most likely will.
You can also check out Joe’s column in our magazine for the 2022 Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, available for download below.