Estoril Classics 2023 Draws Cheers from the Crowd
The final day of the seventh edition of Estoril Classics was, once again, a resounding success with thousands of fans following the races featuring an impressive collection of machines that have marked the history of motorsport.
The Autódromo do Estoril was once again bathed in sunshine, reaching temperatures that invited a trip to the beach, but the fans remained stoic at the Cascais circuit, covering grandstand A and filling the paddock, where they could see up close the motorbikes and cars that have written unforgettable pages in the world of four and two wheels.
The party's pinnacle was undeniably the Classic GP, and the entire circuit was lavishly prepared for the Formula 1 race. The grandstands were teeming with spectators eager to witness the high-class cars in action, some of which were formerly piloted by World Champions, such as the Lotus 72 and the Williams FW08.
Once more, expectations were not only met but surpassed, as the twenty-five-minute race proved to be a heart-pounding, high-speed contest.
Katsu Kubota, in his Lotus 72, was quickest off the grid and took the lead, swapping places with Soheil Ayari, who had lined up on pole-position in his Ligier JS11 after his victory on Saturday. However, during the first lap, the Japanese driver had to give in to the superiority of the Gallic combination, which once again set a hell of a pace under the intense heat.
With his rivals unable to keep up, the winner of the 1997 Macau Grand Prix took victory in the Classic GP with an impressive display that thrilled the packed Grandstand A.
Behind Ayari, there was an all-out battle between Katsu Kubota, in a Lotus, Martin O'Connell and Mark Hazell, with the Brabham BT37 driver being the first to overtake the Japanese driver, who ended up out of contention for making a false start, which earned him a 'Drive Through' penalty.
O'Connell, in second place, and Hazell then became the focus of attention of the crowd at the Estoril Autodrome, with a fierce battle between the two. The Williams FW08 driver ended up overtaking his team-mate with the chequered flag in sight, but O'Connell, in a Brabham BT37, crossed the finish line in third, winning Class A.
The crowd, enthralled by the display they had just seen, greeted the men on the podium with applause, which was an exciting way to conclude the Classic GP and celebrate the winners.
The day began with the 2.0L Cup, dedicated only to Porsche 911 2.0 SWBs and, in a way, an offshoot of the well-known Porsche Supercup that is support series of the Formula One World Championship.
Evgeny Kireev/Ramzan Orusbaev were the strongest, joined by Guy Ziser/Oli Webb and Seb Perez/Philip Kadoorie on the podium.
The programme continued with the impressive prototypes and GTs from the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, Endurance Racing Legends, the most recent cars on the programme.
After finishing in second place yesterday, today the sophisticated MG EX264 (LMP2) piloted by Mike Newton got the better of the imposing Maserati MC12 of Evgeny Kireev/Ramzan Orusbaev, who had already climbed to the top step of the podium in the first race of the day. In third place was the Aston Martin DBR9 of Richard Meins.
Classic Endurance Racing 2 was the next category on the Estoril Classics' Sunday menu, bringing prototypes and GTs from the 1970s and 1980s to the public.
The slender Lola T286 of Maxime Guenat was the winner, beating the spectacular TOJ SC304 of Yves Scemama, with the sleek Chevron B26 of John Emberson/Nigel Greensall completing the winners' pack.
The fourth race on the programme, the second of The Greatest Trophy event, was one of the most emotional of the day for the large crowd in grandstand A, as they were able to hear 'A Portuguesa' thanks to the victory of Tiago Raposo Magalhães and Hipólito Pires in a Porsche 904/6 Carrera GTS. The Portuguese duo were joined on the podium by Guillermo Fierro, in a Maserati T61 Birdcage, and Peter Vögele, in a Porsche 904 Carrera GTS.
After the Classic GP, the Touring Cars took centre stage in the Heritage Touring Cup, where BMW and Ford duelled.
The Bavarian cars prevailed over its Detroit rivals, with two 3.0 CSLs - known as the 'Batmobile' - taking the first two positions, the fastest split by Sebastian Glaser/Michael Kammermann and the second by Franz Wunderlich/Patrick Simon.
A Ford still managed a place on the podium with Yves Scemama's Capri RS 3100 Cologne on the bottom step.
With the sun falling over the horizon, the Classic Endurance Racing 1 race was held, dedicated to the machines that competed in the endurance races of the 1960s and 1970s, featuring some of the models that made it to Le Mans.
The Chevron B19s were in the spotlight, taking the first two positions, with Rolf Sigrist overtaking the François Rivaz / Alexander Furiani duo. Serge Kriknoff's Lola T212 saw the chequered flag in third place.
Estoril Classics ended in style with the Iberian Historic Endurance, with Bruno Santos (Porsche 911 3.0 RS) closing the programme with a win under the last rays of sunshine.