Racing memories revived at Algarve race track

Phil Egginton of Puxar Lustro, a specialist vehicle services company at the Algarve Motor Park, was at the race track all weekend and sent us this first-hand report of the Algarve Historic Festival.

The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve was host to the largest historic motor sport festival ever held in Iberia last weekend.

The diverse history of motor sport from pre-war through to the 1970s was represented in both closed wheel, open wheel and saloon “tin top” forms.

More than 250 drivers representing countries as diverse as Portugal, Great Britain, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium and the United States provided an exciting spectacle.

The drivers were a mix of professional, semi-professional and amateur, including some very famous faces from the past.

Top drivers included Bobby Rahal, winner of the 1986 Indy 500, and Jochen Mass, winner of the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. Jochen was the boyhood hero of circuit chief executive Paulo Pinheiro, who described himself as being ‘like a kid again’.

Other racers from the 1970s included saloon and sports car aces Tony Dron and John Fitzpatrick.

However, the star of the weekend for many was, of course, Sir Stirling Moss – for many years the one driver so many men wanted to be and for many years the man other drivers wanted to beat.

Despite recently passing his 80th birthday, he is still very much the pure racer. Sir Stirling’s first practice session on Friday was shortened with an engine problem on his beloved Maserati Osca race car.

For the next couple of hours, he was seen closely studying a circuit map and managed to hitch a ride in one of the circuit racing school cars to help learn the circuit.

Wherever he went, he drew a crowd, all fascinated to meet what many regard to be the greatest living motor sport legend.

The feature race of the weekend was the two-hour Sir Stirling Moss trophy race in which Sir Stirling managed a very creditable 13th overall behind some much faster machinery.

Many of the cars racing were very rare and high value machines. However, race cars are meant to be raced not locked away in a museum.

Spectators were entertained by real wheel-to-wheel racing, with drivers pedalling their machines with as much passion as any modern formula.

The sight of three tiny Mini Coopers cornering at high speed, apparently side to side, with an enormous US Ford Falcon, was a typical example of the entertainment that historic motor sport brings.

All this was combined with true sportsmanship and professionalism. One of the few incidents of the weekend was when two Minis taking part in a parade collided at low speed!

This was the first of many Algarve Historic Festivals and consequently many of the drivers were visiting the circuit for the first time. There was universal praise for the track.

The layout, from a driver’s perspective, was a real challenge. Jochen Mass commented: “It is a very demanding track where the driver’s ability makes the difference. The blind curves require a good knowledge of the circuit to be able to take risks. I have no doubts in saying that is one of the best tracks in the world.”

The circuit was also praised for its excellent spectator viewing. One leading motor sport journalist said: “I don’t know many circuits where you can see so much track action from one viewing point.”

Sir Stirling Moss was equal with his praise: “It is a beautiful circuit, with an exceptional layout.”

More than 5,000 spectators attended the meeting, exceeding the organisers’ expectations.

As well as the racing spectators were entertained by parades for Minis, Audis, Porsches, Ferraris, Maseratis and other makes.

A special display of showing the history of British Sports Cars was put on by the local classic car club, sponsored by Autódromo-based shop Puxar Lustro.