For what has become a fantastic season closer for the historic motor racing scene in Europe; once again DK made the pilgrimage down to Portimao, in Portugal, for the Algarve Classic Festival. In search of thrilling racing, sunshine, a challenging track and podiums; Portugal did not disappoint the DK team for 2019.
Stunning from rolling start to photo-finish, the GT & Sports Car Cup season-closer was the highlight of the 11th Algarve Classic Festival on November 1-3. Embroiled in a gripping five-car breakaway group from the get-go, James Cottingham – formidably teamed with Olly Bryant in his beautiful pale blue DK ex Carreras Colombia AC Cobra – denied the on-form Richard Kent (sharing his rorty Jaguar E-type with Chris Ward) by 1.334 seconds after two hours of motorised warfare on the magnificent Portuguese switchback track.
Factory Audi ace Stippler qualified German kitchen magnate Georg Nolte’s Bizzarrini on pole in the sunny Saturday morning session with a 2m08.588s (80.93mph) best on the imposing 2.9-mile, 15-turn, Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, inland from Portimao and Praia de Rocha on the Atlantic coast. A mere 0.716s blanketed the top three, Cottingham/Bryant’s 2:08.902 and Kent/Ward’s 2:09.304 clearly signalling their intent in better-matched partnerships. With car owners mandated to drive a minimum of 50% the race would play into the Britons’ hands.
29 cars set off behind a Porsche pace car on the green flag reconnaissance tour for Sunday morning’s race. Chris Chiles Jnr led Cottingham, Gary Pearson (in Monteverde’s E-type), Stippler and Kent at the end of the opening lap, but the powerful quintet’s order altered repeatedly over the first 15 minutes behind Pearson who forged ahead on lap three. Another three and he was gone, however, pitting with a broken oil scavenge pump drive in the sump.
That left four for the lead with Kent in front, endeavouring to repel Chiles and Stippler as Cottingham tracked them confidently, then upped his pace. Pearson, meanwhile, had taken over brother John’s gunmetal-hued E-type, which had sat eighth, behind the well-matched Elans of Soper and Haddon, the latter’s cosmetic scars the only sign of the previous afternoon’s drama, the damage from which Wolfe Manufacturing’s crew, reinforced by Richard Walbyoff, had repaired.
Out front, Kent reigned until, with drizzle descending, Cottingham passed Stippler with a fastest lap and closed him down. At one-third distance 5.7 seconds split Cottingham, Kent, Stippler and Chiles, with all to play for. Chiles Jrn and Stippler came in to the pits to retire the Cobra and the Bizzarrini respectively on laps 16 and 18, then Bryant relieved Cottingham after 19 laps. In its middle phase the quickest Elans continued to battle with Wolfe and Cuff (a 1991 British Formula Vauxhall Junior race winner) up.
As the circuit began to dry, Ward, in for Kent, reeled in Bryant and howled ahead on lap 29. With the track at its best – Bryant set fastest lap of 2:09.127 (80.58mph) on lap 38 – Cottingham and Kent resumed their dogfight, James blasting ahead as another shower anointed the surface. But the Jaguar driver dug deeper, progressively eroding a six second deficit as they scythed through traffic. At the chequered flag Richard was 1.3 seconds behind James in an exciting finish greeted by universal applause from the pit wall.
Haddon’s gallant Elan was a sensational third, a lap clear of Soper’s. Despite the intensity of competition in a large field driving standards were exemplary. In marked contrast to other races punctuated by safety car interventions there was never a hint of a full-course caution.
Onto the DK Engineering sponsored Pre 63 GT Series. James Cottingham and Harvey Stanley considered themselves fortunate to win the Pre-’63 GT race at the Algarve Classic Festival. This would be their last race aboard the 7-season faithful “YUF” E-type before it goes on sale at the end of this year.
Following a drive through penalty, meted out when Stanley traversed the pit exit line having taken over the leading Jaguar E-type roadster, Gary Pearson howled past in Carlos Monteverde’s Ferrari 250 GTO only for second gear to fail with four laps to go. “The same as last year, on the penultimate lap,” shrugged Pearson who could only park the Italian stallion safely and watch victory slip away. “That was lucky,” conceded Stanley. “My little mistake looked like it was going to cost us dearly. Then the Ferrari broke!”
The result saw Cottingham/Stanley – who qualified second, 0.457s behind the GTO – take the chequered flag two minutes and 20 seconds clear of Paul Pochciol/James Hanson in the former’s Manthorpe Engineering E-type. The event closed the charismatic DK Engineering-supported three-race season, which previously graced the Donington Historic Festival and the Silverstone Classic.
Pearson planted his Brazilian team mate’s Ferrari on pole, having topped the Friday qualifying session with a 2m13.316s (78.06mph) best on the dramatic 2.89-mile 15-turn Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. Cottingham/Stanley pushed the pair close, recording 2:13.773 in the DK maroon Jaguar.
Cottingham set off from the start like a scalded cat, passing Monteverde in the GTO through the flat out up-hill Turn 8 left hander, squeezing up the inside of the Brazilian absolutely door handle to door handle; but of course without contact. Pursued by Hanson, Olly Bryant, Monteverde, Pangborn, Le Blanc and Emberson. The Bryant E was pulled-up, overheating, after four laps, by which time the Jaguars of Melling and Binfield were battling with Finburgh’s Elite in mid-field. Crankshaft failure stopped Martin’s car abruptly on lap 10 and Le Blanc’s Healey was out within five laps of Katarina taking over.
Up front Monteverde established himself ahead of Pochciol a quarter of the way through the hour, then relayed Pearson from second place after 12 laps, just before half distance. Pearson regained second as the pit stagger unwound, but remained 27 seconds behind Stanley who took over the leading car from Cottingham after 17 laps. Gary eagerly set about negating the deficit by two seconds a lap, but the drive through penalty did for Harvey Stanley. As Pearson swept ahead on lap 24, Stanley’s hopes looked torpedoed and a P45 imminent, but the Ferrari didn’t last another lap thus all he had to do was reach the chequer.
Behind Cottingham (who set the race’s fastest lap of 2:13.586 on the first proper flyer) and Stanley, Pochciol/Hanson and class C winner Pangborn, Emberson finished fourth, with C honours, a lap down. Next year will prove to be a great season for these pre 63 specification cars with talk of a new race at the Peter Auto Series for such cars… Watch this space.
(Thanks to Marcus Pye for the basis of this report)