Reports from the Portimão paddock

Portimão 08 aprile 2022

There was great anticipation at the Portimão circuit in the Algarve. Not only because it was the first leg of the Ferrari Challenge Europe season, but also and above all because it marked the opening of the thirtieth edition of the Prancing Horse one-make series on European soil. This is an anniversary that Ferrari wanted to celebrate with every honour, starting with the undisputed stars of these thirty years of racing, the Maranello manufacturer’s racing cars.

Ferrari 348 Challenge. The 348 Challenge, the car used to launch the Prancing Horse one-make series, arrived in Portugal ahead of the drivers. Tended to by Ferrari technicians and admired by all, it made its first appearance in Trofeo Pirelli Race-1, with a lap of the circuit that brought back memories of the early years of the Ferrari Challenge.

Autodromo do Portimão. Near the Algarve coast in southern Portugal, the Autodromo do Algarve opened in October 2008 and has no fewer than fifteen corners laid out on that region’s typical ups and downs. These are some of the interesting facts that were the subject of a fun contest involving Ferrari fans online, with responses from the Ferrari Challenge drivers themselves.

1 April. April Fool’s Day (known as April ‘fish’ day in some Romance languages) sparked imaginations in the paddock, whether cutting out paper fish to stick on the shoulders of unsuspecting drivers and technicians or thinking up something funny involving the ‘shark’ Fons Scheltema…

Old and new faces. Like the first day of school, we said farewell to old friends and hello to newcomers in the paddock. Meanwhile, the drivers were invited to the official photos and videos, with the new season’s clothing and new logos. The logos included the thirtieth anniversary one, which will be used for communication, promotion, and the updated graphics of the race reports in the live web and television broadcasts.

Cyclone Pulido. Even before he was on the track, Juan Andujar Pulido stood out for his spontaneity and verve in the paddock. The Spanish GT champion arrived in his Ferrari road car, saying: “The Prancing Horse has been my passion since I was a child; being here is a dream come true.” With a big smile for everyone and natural warmth, the Madrileño wants to star in the Trofeo Pirelli: “I would love to fight for the top positions.”

Top debuts. On the subject of debuts, this time absolute, the prize for the best must go to Mark Bailey. The British driver arrived at Portimão as a newcomer but over the two days went on to bring home a fifth and a fantastic second place in the Coppa Shell Am.

Against the clock. Even before the time trial, the race against the clock between Luka Nurmi and Doriane Pin, which promises to animate the entire Ferrari Challenge season, was played out over their dates of birth. While the Finn was last year’s youngest winner and the youngest World Champion, the Frenchwoman, just turned eighteen, bagged a pair of wins in the Algarve, coming very close to toppling the 17-year-old Finn’s record.

Family affairs. Thomas, David, Corinna and Manuela Gostner made a welcome and eagerly awaited return. The South Tyrolean family is back in force in the Ferrari Challenge, showing that they want to star in the various classes. We met Manuela between races. She told us about her almost accidental debut and the path that led her from the Challenge to become a leading Competizioni GT driver, up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She also shared a few interesting facts, such as her father’s love of flying and everything with wings.

Overseas. Two competitors in the European series arrived from the United States. James Weiland, star of the 2021 Coppa Shell, started the weekend with a challenging qualifying session but quickly made up for it with an excellent Race-1: after thirteen overtakes, he finished close on the tail of the leading drivers. Then, in the second round, the likeable American regained last year’s polish securing a valuable podium place. Lisa Clark, the reigning Ladies Cup champion in the US one-make series, who also competed in the APAC championship rounds earlier this year, performed brilliantly in Portugal in the Coppa Shell Am.