A restaurant owner has just become national rally champion, beating all the professional drivers.
But trust me, he is an even better man than he is a driver.
I remember watching Ricardo Teodósio rally driving when I was younger. He never won anything, but everybody waited until he passed before leaving and sprint to the next stage. He was the most spectacular guy in the car. Not necessarily the fastest, but man could he put on a show.
The years went by and this was the reputation he got. Talented, but he didn’t have what it took to win. Still, I had this friend who always said Ricardo was the best of them, he just didn’t have the car because he didn’t have the money. And because he didn’t have the car, he didn’t win, and because he didn’t win, he didn’t get enough money from sponsors to get a better car.
So, in 2017, that friend made me an offer. Let’s buy a car together, a good car, and rent it to Ricardo. Let’s give him a chance to win the Group N Portuguese championship (that’s the second most important category in national rallying after the R5) and see what comes from there. Okay, I said – but I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.
And then I got a crash course about who Ricardo Teodósio is. He got in his trailer, drove non-stop for two days to Hungary and brought the car himself. No big staff to help, no official liaison with the brand, nothing. Just one guy with a love for driving you and I can only imagine.
Ricardo Teodósio was born in Loulé on December 24, 1975. He will be 44 years old next month. His family was not a wealthy one, so being a racing driver was not a very realistic dream. But his father loved cars and, at the age of nine, little Ricardo was already driving the family’s Renault 5 DL on the driveway with his brother Vitor. Back and forth, back and forth, for hours and hours.
In 1978, the Teodósio family got into the restaurant business with a small place at Praia dos Salgados. Because it was doing so good, they opened a second one in Guia, dedicated to selling Chicken à la Guia, a typical dish of the town, as you must be well aware. They started with a capacity of 50 seats. Thirty-seven years later, they are the most famous restaurant of the Algarve: Teodósio, o Rei dos Frangos, the chicken king, has a capacity of 640 seats and is as much a historic venue as a restaurant can be.
When Ricardo entered his teenage years, business was booming and the family bought a small farm in Alentejo. A farm means farm roads and the new Citroën AX Sport his parents had bought became the first car Ricardo drove in anger. He was 13. And he was good. He was so good his father bought him a top-level go-kart. He entered the 1990 junior national championship and came seventh. The year after that he finished fourth.
The chicken business was getting bigger and he eventually started racing go-karts abroad. In 1994, he placed sixth at the world championship. Then he jumped to Formula Ford and Formula Opel next – where he won the European Cup in 1996, aged 21. But just when things seemed to be getting on track, he lost his father and had a terrible bike accident which left him in a coma.
After three very hard years, he tried rally raid but soon returned to the formulas in 2000. He was Formula Novis’ vice-champion, and he and his brother also came second in 2001 at the Mazda Cup. And then he felt it was time to go rallying. In a Mitsubishi Evo 3, he contested the Algarve Rally and loved it.
In 2002, he rented another Mitsubishi, this time an Evo 6, and crashed it so badly he had to buy it – and so began a love story between Ricardo Teodósio and Mitsubishis that made him the biggest specialist in the country regarding these cars. At his workshop – Teodósio Motorsport – he prepares Mitsubishis for a whole range of drivers, splitting his time between his passion and the restaurant.
Also in his workshop lives that Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X he drove on a trailer for 3300km back from Hungary. It is owned by Ricardo today, the first car that made him a champion. Because he won the Group N championship, he believed he could get further, so he bought a Skoda Fabia R5. This is a €250,000 car that costs €30,000 in parts and servicing for every rally it is entered. But now he had the equipment to beat those other guys who always finished first. The guys with factory support. The guys with the big money.
Last year, he won his first rally overall and took the championship down to the wire. In the Algarve, the last stop of the season, the Skoda broke down and ended the dream, but this year Ricardo was just too good, too fast, and he showed everybody, including himself, that he has what it takes to be a champion. So, with co-driver José Teixeira, he became Portuguese Rally Champion at his home rally, two weeks ago. Nobody deserved it more.
On the podium, surrounded by his whole team, his fan club, thousands of anonymous supporters and with his son by his side, he asked his long-standing girlfriend to marry him. She said yes. The crowd went nuts, as you can imagine. When he drove his car off the podium and stepped out, I gave him a hug, but I am not sure he remembers that. After all, I had just watched history being made, but he was the one making it. Not your typical day, even for a rally driver.
Ricardo Teodósio is the second Portuguese Rally Champion born in the Algarve. He is a good man. He makes a great Chicken à la Guia. And he can drive a car like 99.999999% of the people on this planet can only dream of. I am proud that he calls me his friend.
By Guilherme Marques
Photos by: ANÍBAL MARQUES