I know the race, European Le Mans Series @ Estoril, took place more than a week ago, but Uncle Iberian’s been busy with his many steve-jobs. We do what we can. Sometimes I kick meself for taking too many photographs, 2,000 or more is simply not acceptable when you’re trying to get things done quickly. I’ll limit myself next time, I promise.
So, the race: it was AMAZING! And I mean it, the best experience of 2014 so far for yer fav Iberian uncle. AutoGP was in da house as a supporting event, with former F1 V10-nner Antonio Pizzonia rocking the place like crazy – old school, “like”.
AutoGP, despite its relatively outdated-but-recently-modified chassis/engine package, provided some good entertainment for the fans present en masse for the first time since the World Series by Renault paid us a visit back in 2007, funnily enough on the same weekend when #Kimi7 won his one and only title with Farrari (#winkwink). I’m a McClaren fan myself, for sure, you know.
AutoGP, yes. As I was saying, the fun was good, it was good fun. Nothing wrong with politically incorrect eco-unfriendly cars, they look good, they sound great, they’re not too expensive to run, kids loved it. Enthusiasm was in the air: middle-aged men spent their time at the circuit smoking plenty of stinky cigarettes and drinking cheap beer, babies could be heard crying everywhere, women were going nuts, all this happening while racing cars were out there on the circuit fighting for positions. What else can you possibly want from a day at the races? Did I also mention the paddock access cost only 5€? Man, that beats Formula 1 any old day of the week, likely Sunday of course.
You will have noticed I’m not using hallo-I’m-a-BIG-pundit type of storytelling – it’s because I went to the paddock incognito, just to enjoy the atmosphere, etc.. This time I had the luxury of not having to do any type of work for obscure magazines and ask drivers/team managers odd questions, these rare unprotected species were left to do their thing in the wild for now. I felt like an observer, a very polite observer one might add (because I’m very polite 100% of the time). No need to discuss the pros and cons of the ELMS, no paddock gossip, no “one team principal who wished to remain unnamed told me”, no exclusives on driver movements… That’s what pros (and con artists) do to basic motor racing, the main thing is not to get caught in this stuff and continue to enjoy your frequent visits to races. Maybe tomorrow I’ll read something related to the paddock speculation, but not tonight.
Estoril is a funny old circuit, I’m sure nobody realized it was actually upgraded to an FIA Grade 1 license last year and that means it can in theory hold F1 races, which is never going to happen anyway. Parking a car is a bit of an issue these days: there’s a huge shopping mall nearby with plenty of space for local and visiting motorists who – for some weird reason – prefer to park in the middle of the road just 50 meters away from the main grandstand, thus complicating their and other people’s lives. Car parks belonging to the track are just too small for enthusiastic crowds on race day or maybe better management of the situation by the race organisers was needed, however it’s a tiny detail, nothing too dramatic. Perhaps, it only goes to show fans’ passion for top class endurance racing events: you want to park your car literally just anywhere when you hear the fantastic roar of these wild LMP2 and GT beasts! It’s main grandstand or bust!!! I used public transport by the way, but I’m smart, a lot smarter than you. Nah, just kidding: I’m the best! No cross-circuit traffic for yer humble servant – I chose a nice and pleasant taxi ride to from the train station downtown Estoril to the paddock entrance. This is how we get it done @ iberianmph.com HQ.
Promotion was much better than in 2011 when the race, known at the time as Le Mans Series, didn’t attract a lot of attention, I suspect nobody knew what Le Mans Series meant a few years ago, no local drivers involved with the top teams either, no nothing. I mostly remember it for Rebellion Racing’s fantastic prototype powered by Toyota’s mighty V8 engine, that car sort of stands out and always will. I can distinguish between various engine sounds and that bad mothersucker sounded alright! It’s totally incomprehensive how all these pundits couldn’t tell F1 V10 or V8 engines apart, it was so obvious – the note. Current F1 V6 whistling kettles all sound different, the only difference is which one is quieter: Renault’s oui-oui kid is trying to say something; Mercedes’ pensioner coughs “I’m respectable”, while Ferrari’s anorexic bambino needs a cup of strong espresso to wake up and speak up because it’s inaudible after 1st gear… I suspect Honda’s 2015 PU will choke on liquid sushi in the middle of the first corner in Jerez and will stay silent, I’m not expecting it to scream like Japanese horror movies. Bloody Greenp*ss. Xes Pistols.
I’ll be honest with all yer occasional readers of this blog: I felt more fascinated with LMP2 category than with the multiple and equally exciting GT entries despite some big former F1 stars being involved, like my favourite 1990s Finn Mika Salo. GT is nothing new for me but I prefer V de V for proper GT racing and here @ Estoril a full-on LMP2 battle was raging for the championship honours: Signatech Alpine or Jota Sport for the title, who would it be? In the end, Sébastien Loeb won… I mean Sébastien Loeb Racing won the race with a little help from the GP3 racer and a typical Swede Jimmy Eriksson, gotta tell ya Erikssons-Ericssons are everywhere, from F1 to ELMS. I can barely keep up with the Erickssons! Among other F1 hopefuls and rejects I spotted Klien, the older of the two Magnussens, Gommendy, Carroll, Montermini, Niederhauser, Korjus. A good portion of #EatSleepRaceRepeat NISMO GT Academy dudes tried their virtual hand in the real world driving for Greaves Motorsport, I’m talking about Shulzhitsky and Faísca, an interesting proposition. The fans’ favourite and Audi’s favourite Portuguese son, Filipe Albuquerque, was the main dish of the day for thousands (17,000 they told me but I suspect it’s 17,000 + 10,000, I mean the place was SOOOO crowded!) of spectators who gathered somewhat disproportionately around the track but mainly occupied the paddock as it should be.
If you frequently visit ELMS official website, you’ll know Signatech Alpine took the title after 4 hours of quality endurance action. I say amen to that and let’s hope for another exciting season of ELMS racing in 2015.
Please now go to sleep or check out my photos from the race!
ELMS full gallery is HERE
AutoGP full gallery is HERE
Click HERE 4 ELMS sounds