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Crowning the magic
2023 Algarve Classic Festival report


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Ken Tyrrell


Tyrrell-Cosworth 011




2021 Algarve Classic Festival (October 27, 2023)

Ken Tyrrell, Tyrrell 011, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

It’s a story that a screenplay writer would dismiss as being over the top, yet this magical tale has indeed come true – the American who happens to be the namesake of a legendary F1 team boss racing one of Ken Tyrrell’s cars to become the new champion of the series for 3-litre F1 cars. Finishing his remarkable season in style, Ken Tyrrell guided his Tyrrell 011 to victory in the final race of the season at the closing round in Portugal, after the win in the first race had gone to Soheil Ayari. The French driver, who was once dubbed ‘the new Alain Prost’ but failed to progress beyond F3000, followed up his pair of Estoril wins with another victory in his Ligier JS21.

Tyrrell laid the foundations for his title with a run of victories that started at Zandvoort, where he won two of the three races before the American won again at Silverstone. Combined with a host of podiums and points scores, the Tyrrell driver was already out of reach after Spa. Still, he came to the Algarve Classic Festival because he found the Portimão circuit too beautiful to miss out on. This allowed him to end the season in style – notching up a fourth victory of the year.

Soheil Ayari, Ligier JS21, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

Driving his flat-bottomed 1983 Ligier JS21, Soheil Ayari swept to victory in Saturday's first of two Masters Racing Legends races. (photo 8W)

This time, all Masters races took place on Saturday, so Ayari shone earlier on the same day in the opening race of the festival, the Frenchman coming up from third on the grid after a troubled qualifying session. However, his Ligier ran trouble-free in the morning race, allowing him to beat the surprise man on pole, as Werner d'Ansembourg registered the first pole position of his young historic F1 career, having already clinched his debut victory at his home circuit of Spa. In the afternoon, the young Belgian in the Brabham BT49 was again second, this time behind champion Tyrrell.

Ayari also had to pass Nick Padmore in the morning, the driver who had become champion in the pre-78 class with his Lotus 77. Still, the Briton added yet another class victory. In the afternoon, a reverse grid for the first eight of the morning race meant Padmore got stuck behind Ayari, allowing teammate Marco Werner to grab the class win in the Lotus 76 that returned to the championship after years of absence. Ayari failed to finish that race, as the Ligier again suffered the problem from qualifying.

Marco Werner, Lotus 76, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

Marco Werner debuted the ex-Andrew Beaumont Lotus 76 to take an overall podium and a pre-78 class win in the second race. (photo 8W)

The two races for GP cars up to 1966 were breathtaking, as the top-three were rarely split by more than a second in either race. On Saturday, Justin Maeers came out on top while on Sunday Rüdi Friedrichs won, both in a Cooper T53. In fact, the second race ended in a photo finish between the German and the Briton, the difference on the line only 11 thousandths, while Tim Child’s Brabham BT3/4 crossed the line in third place at less than half a second.

In Formula Juniors, Clive Richards was strongest twice, his Lotus 22 staying ahead of Philipp Buhofer’s Lotus 27 on both occasions. The most remarkable news, however, was the 700th participation of Formula Junior godfather Duncan Rabagliati, who has been competing his orange Alexis HF1 continuously since 1989, averaging 20 races per season.

Keith Frieser, Zytek 09S, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

After Steve Brooks dropped out in the Peugeot 90X, Keith Frieser had the second MEL race all for his own. (photo 8W)

Unfortunately, most of the excitement in the Masters Endurance Legends had already gone up in smoke during the test day on Thursday, along with the diesel engine in Stuart Wiltshire’s Peugeot 90X. Steve Brooks’ other Peugeot 90X therefore reigned supreme, no matter what Keith Frieser in the Zytek 09S tried. When Brooks had to retire at the start of the second race with a broken gearbox, Frieser in turn was able to dominate his race.

Little came of the promised duel between Andrew Donaldson's debutant Lister Storm GTL and the Marcos LM600evo of Cor Euser and Jeroen van den Heuvel in practice. The Lister easily won the GT class both times, after Van den Heuvel was black flagged in the first race due to non-functioning brake lights and Euser sustained damage in the pits in the second race after a collision with the Ligier of Craig Davies and Ron Maydon.

John Spiers/Nigel Greensall, TVR Griffith, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

John Spiers and Nigel Greensall claimed pole for the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race but saw their TVR Griffith fail to last the distance in the race. They did come away with the title, however. (photo 8W)

The GT highlights of the weekend were the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race (combined with the Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars) on Saturday and the two-hour GT & Sports Car Cup race on Sunday. In fact, the Gent Drivers amounted to a 90-minute practice run for several cars as the same two Jaguar E-types finished in first and second places in both races, even though their order was reversed the following day.

On Saturday, Gary Pearson (driving solo because brother John was unwell) won the Gent Drivers race in controlled fashion, after Chris Ward was forced into conservation mode in Richard Kent’s E-type. Slowly but surely, Ward initially closed on Pearson, but felt his gearbox tightening up. With that, he decided to secure second place and save the car for next day’s race.

Richard Kent/Chris Ward, Jaguar E-type, 2023 Algarve Classic Festival

Trophy's in the bag for CUT 7, now let's go home! (photo 8W)

After a gearbox change, Kent and Ward’s E-type got off to a fresh start in the GTSCC race, which threatened to be completely drowned by excessive rainfall in the first hour. After two days of sunshine and a modest shower here and there, the weather completely changed on Sunday. Two years earlier, the final Algarve round of the GTSCC had already been cut short dramatically due to similar weather conditions, so series organisers Flavien Marçais and Vanessa Finburgh were keen for the race to continue. Despite several safety car periods, the longest of which endured for half an hour, the race kept going – which proved to be the right choice, because after an hour the weather finally cleared and a proper race ensued.

Pearson, who had started from pole, initially led the field, but Ward was now closing in fast to pass the other E-type with over half an hour to go. Kent finished the job during his final stint by crossing the finish line with almost a minute’s lead. The programme was complemented by three Portuguese championships.

More pictures of the Algarve Classic Festival weekend