Cantillon closes season with hard-fought Masters Racing Legends win at Portimão
Mike Cantillon won the final Masters Racing Legends race of the season after a thrilling duel with Marco Werner. Going head to head for the entire race, the Irishman’s Williams FW07C relinquished the lead once, on lap 9, only to steal it back on the next lap before storming off to a three-second lead over Werner’s Lotus 87B.
“I’m glad for the crowd and all the people that came here”, a delighted Cantillon said, before addressing his race-long fight with Werner and the mistake that almost cost him victory. “And that man just doesn’t give up! Yes, I was going down the straight, hit the brakes, and then my foot slipped off the pedal… I went wide, allowing Marco to pass me, but I was lucky I didn’t go into the gravel. In all, a great way to end the season with Masters.”
“Those last four laps were really difficult, I just had no pace anymore”, Werner said. “I got vibrations, the brakes were fading… It made it very hard, but I’m happy.”
From the back, after his mishap in Saturday’s race, Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) drove a strong race to claim third, passing Lukas Halusa’s Williams FW08. Halusa had started from pole but soon saw Cantillon and Werner jump him, as the Irishman and the German disappeared to have their private battle. He then hung on for several laps before finally succumbing to Hartley’s pressure. On the back of his early-season streak of wins, Hartley had already become champion at the previous round at Spa.
“That was hard”, Hartley said about his comeback race. “And it didn’t help when I spun it at the chicane and had to make up all that ground again. I just pushed and pushed, but it’s really been the first time I’ve been here. Ten years ago was the last time, and not with this car. Yes, I had already won the title, but you want to win every time! Still, it was a good weekend, and I enjoyed it.”
In fifth overall, Patrick d’Aubreby drove a controlled race to bag the pre-78 class win, in the process doing enough to also lift the 2022 pre-78 title. Always having at least one other in between himself and title rival Jonathan Holtzman in the Tyrrell P34 helped the Frenchman in his confidence of a second win during a very successful weekend for the March 761 driver.
“I just tried to drive a clean race”, said the new champion. “I was simply looking where Jonathan was and tried to maintain a safe gap.”
“Patrick just got comfortable, whereas I just don’t know the track”, said Holtzman, who was gracious in defeat. “We had all sorts of issues in practice and qualifying, which cost me the track time that I needed. But he was driving well, and I wasn’t driving good enough to beat him – it’s as simple as that, and you’ve got to give him credit for that.”
As the last race at the end of a very busy European Masters season, the Masters Racing Legends machines lined up for their second encounter at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. With a reversed grid for the first four of Saturday’s race, Lukas Halusa took off from pole in his Williams FW08, with Mike Cantillon in the FW07C and Saturday’s winner Marco Werner in the Lotus 87B right behind the Austrian, since Martin O’Connell had withdrawn Mark Hazell’s FW08 from the race, as well as the FW07B that Hazell himself had raced the day before.
Pre-78 points leader Patrick d’Aubreby was up next in the March 761, still separated from his title rival Jonathan Holtzman’s Tyrrell P34 by two other cars – Mark Higson’s McLaren MP4/1B and Marc Devis in the Lotus 78. Marco Fumagalli (Theodore TR1) and Arthur Bruckner (Arrows A6) followed the six wheeler and its fellow pre-78 class competitor Niklas Halusa in the McLaren M23, but they were soon usurped by Steve Hartley coming from the back in a McLaren MP4/1 that had retired from race one.
At the front, Cantillon and Werner quickly dealt with Lukas Halusa, the Irishman leading the German across the line for the first time with a lead of four tenths – and a hard battle between the two would soon develop. Behind Halusa, d’Aubreby stuck to fourth place, chased by Higson, Devis, Holtzman and Halusa (N.), before the Austrian was passed by Hartley. Behind them, Fumagalli was out of the race with a gearbox issue.
On the next lap, Cantillon broke away by four tenths to get some air between himself and the German in pursuit, and the Williams driver added another fastest lap of the race to increase his lead to just under a second. Hartley, meanwhile, was up to sixth, having jumped Holtzman and Devis. At the back, Bruckner was in after two laps, another victim of gearbox failure.
The leaders had stabilised their positions as they entered lap 5, while Halusa (L.) was left trailing by eight seconds. The Austrian now had Steve Hartley to worry about, as the ‘Jam Baron’ had cleared Higson and d’Aubreby to be fourth, just four seconds adrift from the Williams FW08. D’Aubreby still had his two-car buffer from Holtzman, though, and for the moment looked safe for the pre-78 class title.
With 15 minutes remaining, Werner began to apply the pressure again, closing up on Cantillon by three tenths, as Hartley set fastest lap of the race to get within two seconds of the younger Halusa. Into lap 6, Werner was onto Cantillon’s gearbox, and they crossed the line to start the seventh lap seven tenths apart. Hartley, meanwhile, had cut his deficit to Halusa to just four tenths, both now running eight seconds behind the leaders. D’Aubreby held station 22 seconds behind Cantillon, leading Higson by two seconds, Devis by four seconds and title rival Holtzman by eleven.
On lap 8, however, Cantillon pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a fastest lap of the race that was six tenths faster than Werner’s effort on the same lap, and so the Irishman’s lead was back up to 1.2 seconds. Nine seconds further back, Halusa valiantly hung on against Hartley, the McLaren unable to find a way past the Williams. Further back, Devis was seen trundling into the pits, retiring his Lotus 78 with handling issues.
But then it was all change on lap 9. A small error by Cantillon allowed Werner into the lead, while Hartley finally dealt with Halusa to take third. Cantillon wasn’t giving up, however, and the next time around the two went side-by-side on the straight, resulting in the Irishman retaking the lead! Hartley having passed Halusa (L.), the McLaren had set its target further up the road, and had cut the gap to the leaders to seven seconds, as it left the FW08 five seconds behind.
On lap 12, with less than five minutes left on the clock, a new fastest lap of the race by Cantillon meant his lead was now up to 2.2 seconds, Werner apparently having given up the fight. Hartley and Lukas Halusa were safe in third and fourth, while d’Aubreby looked to have the pre-78 win – and the title – sealed in fifth overall, now 19 seconds ahead of Holtzman in seventh overall, the two sandwiching Higson’s McLaren. In eighth overall, Niklas Halusa was still third in the pre-78 class.
After 15 hard-raced laps, Cantillon was flagged off as the winner, leading Werner across the line by three seconds. Hartley finished third, 11 seconds behind, while Lukas Halusa took fourth, 24 seconds down. In fifth overall, d’Aubréby bagged the pre-78 class win and ensured that he is the new pre-78 champion, as he led home Higson and Holtzman, the latter taking second in class from Niklas Halusa.
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