Steve Brooks produced a lights-to-flag victory in the first Masters Endurance Legends race at Portimão, as the pole-sitting Peugeot 90X silently strode away to a comfortable win over Keith Frieser in the Zytek 09S. The Canadian initially tried to stay with the French diesel-engined machine and did well to finish within 20 seconds of the winner.
“It’s lovely. It’s fantastic”, said a delighted Brooks. “Portugal, great weather, dry track, amazing car. Just the sheer enjoyment of it. Wonderful. A shame that [Peugeot rival] Stuart [Wiltshire] wasn’t here but it was still amazing.”
“I brought a knife to a gunfight”, Frieser quipped. “The Peugeot is so quick, and Steve drives it really well too, to be fair. I just tried to put in my best laps. It was a bit of a lonely race but it’s always joyful to drive that car. And this is my second favourite track, right behind Spa.”
Andy Cummings and Alvaro Fontes shared their Morgan Pescarolo 01 on their way to third overall and the P2 class win, but it was Mike Newton whose MG-Lola EX264 did the early running in class before the car’s turbo exhaust failed. Craig Davies and Ron Maydon bagged another P3 class win in their Ligier JSP3 while Andrew Donaldson powered his Lister Storm GTL to an unchallenged GT class victory.
“Amazing”, said Cummings about his stint. “The wind caught me out a little bit at the first turn down the hill. So that’s when the MG got past me. But then I got my head down and started chipping away. And by the time I’d come in for the pit stop, I’d virtually caught him again. I knew if Alvaro got in the car, he’d catch Mike.”
“Unfortunately for him I didn’t need to catch him”, said Fontes. “But what a race. This track is unique. This car is amazing. I enjoyed it very, very much.”
“It was lonely after the first lap”, said Donaldson of his emphatic GT class win. “But it’s the first time out for the car, so it was good fun. Towards the end, it was great fun chasing Nigel [Greensall] around. It was on the radio. Do we need to pass? Don’t we pass? They said you don’t need to. That Corvette is quick. With Nigel at it, it’s a quick car. So it was good fun to have a chase around at the end, despite being a full lap ahead.”
Neil Glover and Aaron Scott prevailed in the concurrent Masters GT Trophy race, leaving Mike Furness in the Courage LC75 between themselves and the equally Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo-equipped David & Jason McInulty, as they finished sixth, seventh and eighth overall. In ninth, Gianluigi Candiani’s Lucchini SR2 took second in P2 while the John Emberson/Nigel Greensall Chevrolet Corvette C6.R grabbed second place among the GTs, ahead of Günther Alth in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3. The two cars moved up after the Marcos LM600evo of Cor Euser and Jeroen van der Heuvel was black-flagged for failing brake lights.
“It was great fun. I really enjoyed it. The car is fantastic”, said Glover.
“It’s nice to see Neil making really good strides”, said Scott. “He found three seconds from the quali to the race. So I think that’s enjoyable for both of us to see the progress.”
“David put up a great fight, he was going well in the beginning”, said Jason McInulty.
“Yeah, mission accomplished”, said David.
“A quick pit stop and then me. I made a mistake and I spun. Aaron came past when I was spinning, so he didn’t actually overtake me!”, Jason quipped.
“It’s my first time here on that track”, said Alth. “It’s a fantastic track, but it’s very demanding. I’m a little bit exhausted at the moment, after over 40 minutes of driving. I think it’s a great place to perform here. It’s a fantastic track, but you have to get used to it. But the more you learn it, the more you learn to love it also.”
“Is there a better sounding car on the grid than the Corvette?” said a beaming Emberson. “It’s awesome, isn’t it? It sounds fantastic. Great to drive too, especially with Nigel. He showed me how to drive it properly. I’ll maybe get there, but it’s an awesome bit of kit.”
“We were racing the Marcos”, said Greensall. “He was a bit ahead of us and we were catching him slightly. If he hadn’t had the black flag he probably would have still have beaten us, to be honest. But yeah, the Corvette, it won Le Mans GT2 in 2012, so we’re running it in full GT2 spec. It’s a joy to drive, really. It’s just a sequential gear shift and no driver aids, a real racer’s car.”
Straight after lunch at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, the Masters Endurance Legends field rolled out with their fellow drivers from the Masters GT Trophy, as they embarked on their first race of the day. Sadly, the Peugeot 90X fight between Steve Brooks and Stuart Wiltshire would fail to materialise, Wiltshire’s Peugeot having succumbed in testing on Thursday. The sun was out, but at the same time small drops of rain were spitting down from a dark cloud right above the circuit.
Brooks duly led away, followed by Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S, while Mike Newton in the MG-Lola EX264 got the drop on Andy Cummings in the Morgan Pescarolo 01. Craig Davies was fifth in the lead P3 machine, the Ligier JSP3 just ahead of the top GT car, Andrew Donaldson’s Lister Storm ahead of John van den Heuvel’s Marcos LM600evo. In eighth and ninth overall, Neil Glover and David McInulty fought over the Masters GT Trophy lead in their Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evos, with Gianluigi Candiani’s Lucchini SR2 completing the top ten now, while lying in third in the P2 class, ahead of Mike Furness in the Courage LC75.
At the front, Brooks put the hammer down immediately, leading Frieser by 6.6 seconds after three laps. Newton was 11 seconds adrift but holding third quite comfortably, with some seven seconds in hand over Cummings. Further back, Guy Ziser’s time in the BMW E46 M3 was kept to a single lap before he was forced to report to the pits with power steering issues. In seventh overall, Candiani had passed Van den Heuvel to split the two leading GT cars.
A new fastest lap of the race on lap 5 extended Brooks’ lead over Frieser to 12 seconds while the rest of the field remained static – until Furness also passed Van den Heuvel for an overall position. Meanwhile, in 12th, John Emberson ran third in the GTs, his Chevrolet Corvette C6.R keeping ahead of GT points leader Günther Alth in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 while Adam Sharpe in the Wolf from the CN category was 13th overall and second in the P3 class.
On lap 7, two warnings were issued – Van den Heuvel got the ‘meatball’ flag for failing brake lights on the Marcos, while Candiani was under investigation for start procedure infringement – and this duly led to a stop-and-go penalty issued on lap 8. David McInulty, meanwhile, had passed the Dutchman for ninth overall while also vaulting GT Trophy rival Glover.
As the pit window came ever nearer, Brooks gave it another go to increase his lead to 15 seconds while Newton – now 34 seconds adrift of the leading Peugeot – kept five seconds in hand over Cummings. Davies and Donaldson continued to lead their classes in fifth and sixth, while Candiani was chased by Furness. The Italian still had to serve his penalty, though.
On lap 11, Brooks was in for his mandatory stop, followed by Cummings who would hand over to Alvaro Fontes, with Donaldson, Candiani, Alth and Glover also in, the latter relieved by his preparer Aaron Scott. Newton took his stop the next time around, as did Furness and Van den Heuvel, the Dutchman handing the Marcos to his countryman Cor Euser. Sharpe was in next, with George Haynes taking over the CN Wolf, while Frieser and Davies extended their stay to lap 13, the latter handing the Ligier to Ron Maydon, as did John Emberson, who would be relieved by Nigel Greensall. In the meantime, Candiani took his second stop in order to serve his penalty.
On lap 14, with the pit window closed, Brooks reassumed his lead over Frieser which now amounted to 20 seconds. Newton had disappeared from third, however, as the MG-Lola was seen returning to the pits for a second time, its turbo exhaust broken, effectively gifting the P2 class lead to Fontes, the Morgan Pesca now 55 seconds down on the leader. Also as a result, Maydon moved up into fourth, with Donaldson next up, the Lister Storm in an unchallenged GT class lead over the Marcos. Furness was sixth, but the two Huracáns were closing in fast, Scott having got ahead of Jason McInulty, with Euser and Candiani completing the top ten for now. In 11th, Greensall in the Corvette was on a charge, though, running comfortably quicker than the three cars further up the road from him.
One car that Greensall needn’t pass anymore was the Marcos that was now shown the black flag as its brake lights were still not functioning after a quick fix during the stops failed to deliver the desired result. As a result, the Corvette was promoted to second in class while Alth assumed third place on the GT leaderboard.
The final five minutes proved to be static, as Brooks turned into preservation mode, happy to maintain a 15-second cushion to Frieser in second place. In the end, Brooks won by 17 seconds, with Fontes in third ahead of Maydon and Donaldson, all three winning their respective P2, P3 and GT classes. In sixth overall, Neil Glover and Aaron Scott triumphed in the Masters GT Trophy, with Mike Furness in the Courage LC75 staying ahead of their rivals David & Jason McInulty. Candiani was ninth while Greensall took second in GTs ahead of Alth, with the Haynes/Sharpe Wolf in 11th overall and second in P3.