04/03/13 - The Autodromo International do Algarve provided the
perfect setting for two thrilling races that kicked off the 2013
Radical European Masters season in fine style.
In changeable conditions at the Portuguese circuit Marks
Electrical Racing enjoyed two wins with drivers Victor Correa and
Tony Wells/James Littlejohn respectively whilst James Abbott took
both Supersport Class wins.
Single-seater ace Correa put his Marks Electrical Racing SR8 RX
on pole for Race One with a blistering lap time of 1m40.923s, 1.3s
faster than the rest of the field and only a couple of seconds
slower than the Lola LMP2 coupe also testing at Portimao this week.
Behind Correa there was a real scrap for grid positions with the
next four grid spots split by just 0.3s. Limba's Marco Cencetti
lined up alongside Correa with Konstantins Calko and Tony Wells
forming row two, whilst Bassam Kronfli and Robert Enestedt lined up
for fifth and sixth on the grid. Radical UK Works Team driver James
Abbott was the fastest of the Supersports Class drivers with a lap
time of 1m47.390, just ahead of series newcomer Salvados Tineo
Correa also took pole for Race Two with the fastest time of the
weekend as the daylight faded. James Littlejohn took second on the
grid with a best lap just 0.7s slower, whilst RAW's Rob Wheldon was
third on the grid on his return to SR8 competition. Series stalwart
Ross Kaiser qualified fourth with Christian Kronegard and Alex
Mortimer forming the row behind. James Abbott was once again the
Supersports Class pole sitter just ahead of Tom Ashton.
The field streamed cleanly into and through the first corner in
dry sunny conditions to kick off the season, with Correa
maintaining the lead from lights-to-flag for a dominant win.
Cencetti kept Correa honest through the opening laps of the race,
in turn pressured by Calko having passed Enestedt for third place
on the second lap.
Mike Cantillon made an incredible start to leap from 15th to eighth
place in seven laps and was right on the tail of Terrance Woodward
at a quarter race distance. In the Supersports class, James Abbott
had also made a great start, rising from 16th on the grid to 13th
whilst being chased by young Spanish racer Arrojo.
With the pit window opening on lap 10 the race order was mixed
up for a few minutes as the frantic driver changes and pit stops
took place. Correa held his lead throughout, whilst a long stop for
Cencetti and co-driver Michelangelo Marateotto saw the pair drop
out of podium contention. This allowed Calko to take up second, a
position relinquished towards the end of the race to 360's Ross
Kaiser having relieved Woodward.
Correa took the win by an impressive margin of 38 seconds over
Kaiser with Calko just three seconds behind on the final podium
step. A great drive by the Works duo of Chris Hyman/Alex Mortimer
saw them finish fourth in their new SR8 RX ahead of Enestedt and
Calko. The Supersports class was won by Abbott, 10th overall and
five places clear of 2012 UK Cup champ Colin Noble.
A short, sharp rain shower between races kept the teams guessing
whether to elect for slick or wet tyres on a drying circuit.
Correa held the lead from the lights but span on the first lap,
scrambling the safety car as he rejoined at the back of the field.
Rob Wheldon had made an incredible start from the mid-pack to take
the lead with solo driver Mike Cantillon second and Jeremy Ferguson
third. James Abbott took advantage of the damp conditions to hold
an amazing third in his SR3 RS, lapping considerably quicker than
the cars around him before falling back into the clutches of the
chasing SR8s in the final laps.
By lap four Wheldon held a 10.6 second advantage over Ferguson,
having passed Cantillon for second. Marks Electrical's James
Littlejohn was hot on the heels of Abbott driving brilliantly on
slicks in the damp conditions, and fellow SR3 racer Matt Bell
passing both on lap nine.
The pit window opened a lap later with Wheldon's lead to
Ferguson now nearly 20 seconds. Limba's Marco Cencetti was the
first to pit with four laps of frantic driver changes to follow.
Tony Wells emerged from the changes in the lead handing over from
Littlejohn, whilst Wheldon's teammate Bassam Kronfli held second
10.2 seconds behind but ahead of Abbott, the lead Supersports class
runner and Mark Smithson. However, a drive-through penalty would
see Smithson drop back with 2012' series champion Konstantins Calko
enjoying reversed fortunes and now up to third on lap 18 after a
sustaining fight through the field.
On lap 22 Calko and the recovering Correa passed Kronfli for
second and third respectively, Terrance Woodward overtaking the
Canadian for fourth a lap later. Wells held on to take the flag by
13 seconds from Calko with Correa just 1.6 behind, Woodward fourth
a further 13s back. Kronfli came home a well-deserved fifth on his
Masters return with Manhal Allos sixth. In the Supersports Class
for SR3s, it was another win for James Abbott with the Italian
pairing of Simone Laureti/Miki Esposito climbing to second in class
and Tom Ashton/Aldous Mitchell third.
The next round of the 2013 Radical Masters Euroseries takes
place at Paul Ricard in one month's time. Before Paul Ricard
there's plenty more action on Radical's home soil though; with the
first rounds of the 2013 performance Direct Radical SR3 Challenge
and Radical Clubman's Cup in just a few weeks time.
For more information on the Radical European Masters,
please click here.