PORTIMAO MARCH 1/2/3 2013

Two wins, two thirds and two pole positions got the Marks Electrical Racing squad off to a flying start in Portimao last Sunday, at the opening rounds of the 2013 Radical Masters Euroseries.

Brazilian Victor Correa was the man to beat, taking victory in race one after securing a double pole. But a wet track for race two caught Victor out and left the way clear for team mates Tony Wells/James Littlejohn to take the victory spoils.

Victor took pole by 1.3secs after the first qualifying session. “Just perfect, I got my head down for some quick laps and did the same in the second session,” he said.

Tony lined up fourth after his session, “I caught a slower car in the wrong place. I had hoped to follow Victor but he got by on the straight and I didn’t,” he explained. Although not entirely happy with his time James was second quickest in his session, “the balance seemed to have shifted in the car as the rear wing was ineffective, I lost grip and overheated the tyres,” he said.

Team boss Mark Smithson was back in his SR8 for the first time in eight months and lined up 12th quickest. “It will do, I got held up trying for a fast one too and put a wheel on the grass but couldn’t go faster,” he said. He was partnered by Christian Kronegard, “I was pleased with my time but had flat spotted a tyre,” explained the Swede after settling in fifth.

Dutchman Jaap Bartels completed the teams quartet in 14th place, but had a number of problems to overcome. “I would love to get rid of the understeer and maybe further up. But the car didn’t follow the lines I steered,” he reckoned.

In the first race Victor was able to make a decisive early break when some of his rivals were delayed at the first corner. But Marco Cencetti remained a thorn in his side for much of the first half, before a late push opened the gap before the pitstops. “He was starting to get me worried, but I did a good job and was happy,” he said.

Tony had been battling in sixth place for much of the race, but was embroiled in a three way battle, which was soon joined by Mark too. “I got put off at the first corner then had a good battle and swapped places a few times until I missed a gearshift just before the stops,” said Tony. “I had a good start and made sure I missed the first corner spinners too. But a missed gear dropped me off the battle ahead,” said Mark after handing over to Christian in ninth place.

While Victor claimed his win by over 38 secs, Christian flew into third and looked almost safe until an errant backmarker intervened. “It was tough trying to keep Ross Kaiser back, then the backmarker started to race me. Ross got by and then I did, but ran out track,” he explained. But with second man Calko spinning, Christian retained the well deserved podium place.

Although James and Tony finished the race in eighth, they were later excluded after a tyre mix up, while Jaap failed to make it to the finish. “I started from the pitlane, then the clutch went and when the engine cut out I parked it,” he concluded.

Just to add to the interest there was a short shower before the start of the second race, which brought a mix of slick and wet tyres to the grid. Victor opted for slicks but ran wide at the first corner and briefly gave James the lead, also on slicks. As Victor had spun at the first Hairpin, the safety car was called out, “the marshals said I was out of the race, but I wasn’t and carried on,” he said.

Not surprisingly the cars on wets dominated for a while and Wheldon pulled out a huge lead, as James slipped to sixth before mounting an outstanding comeback. “I had led out of Turn One and then everyone on wets drove by,” he said.

Christian was a clear ninth and Jaap had climbed to 10th as they prepared for the driver changes. “I got a penalty for overtaking before the line after the safety car, that was unlucky,” Christian explained.

Although Wheldon had handed the lead car to team mate Kronfli, it was only a matter of minutes before he was overhauled by Tony. “I hadn’t really thought where we would finish, I was just looking for the leader. I caught him in a lap and went through at the Hairpin, just pushed hard and brought it home. My two year old son Luke told me to bring home a trophy and I have,” he said.

Victor was also on the pace and stormed back to claim third place five laps from home. “That was so good, for me and my championship,” he explained.

After Mark had served the drive through penalty for Christian’s misdemeanour, he climbed back to seventh on the road, which later became sixth after post race penalties. But for Jaap it was another disappointment, “clutch again,” he concluded.

Published by Peter Scherer for Marks Electrical Racing March 6th 2013.