A day at the races

The Algarve Classic Festival is upon us again. Make sure your phone is fully charged, you are going to need it for the pictures.

What are your plans for the weekend? Stay home and watch another episode of that series everybody is talking about? Catch up with lost sleeping hours? Maybe head to that mall and window shop the whole afternoon?

Forget about it. What you want to do is get to the Portimão Circuit and spend the weekend around classic cars. The Algarve Classic Festival is back this weekend and promises to be another spectacular three days with non-stop racing.

The programme starts on Friday morning at 8.30 with free practice for most of the categories involved. Like the best classic festivals around the world, the ACF encompasses a multitude of different cars spread out through various categories, in order to establish some sense into the competition.

This means that, on any given race, many drivers have the chance of winning, which, in turn, means they often forget the value of the cars they are driving and engage in some fierce racing, where rubbing is fair game and if what it takes to overtake is a small ‘pat on the back’, so be it.

The most prestigious category is the Pre-63 GT by DK Engineering. DK is the leading British expert in all things Ferrari, from sales to maintenance and restoration, and that brings with it a list of entrants that reflects its status. Top dog again this year is a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, one of 36 built (all of them, quite unbelievably, still on the road), and with a market valuation above $50 million. First driven by Phil Hill, the first American F1 World Champion, on the 1962 Sebring 12 Hours, it was the most sought-after model at its premiere on national shores at last year’s ACF and things should not be any different this year.

Any GTO is, after all, not only the most valuable car in the world, but one of the most beautiful objects ever designed by man.

Just like the GTO, all other contenders in the Pre-63 GT category have to be sanctioned by the Royal Automobile Club, so expect a number of E-Type Jaguars, Austin Healeys and several Morgans to fight that Ferrari for victory.

The track will constantly be taken by a raft of different series besides the Pre-63, including the Formula Lurani for Formula Junior Cars, Pre-1975 Algarve Sports Cars, GT & Sports Car Cup, Motor Racing Legends 50’s Sports Cars, Historic Touring Car Challenge, Under 2L Touring Cars, Iberian Historic Endurance, Group 1 Portugal and the Mini Trophy. Check the ACF website for further information on each series and the timetable for the weekend.

Prices start at just €8, or 0,000016 of the price of a 250 GTO, to access the main grandstand and €10 to be able to walk around the paddock. I seriously advise you to buy the paddock ticket. You can look and smell the cars, talk to the owners and drivers and soak up a fantastic atmosphere.

The ACF is the biggest Classic Festival held on the Iberian Peninsula and well worth a visit. Living in the Algarve, you have no excuse not to go. The shopping mall can wait.

Guilherme Marques