Estoril: Round two race report

Oreca's Estoril Masterclass. Conditions: Warm, Dry, Sunny Team Playstation ORECA won the second round of the FIA Sportscar Championship today at Estoril in Portugal with their Dallara Judd, beating the Courage Competition C60JX of Boris ...

Oreca's Estoril Masterclass.
Conditions: Warm, Dry, Sunny

Team Playstation ORECA won the second round of the FIA Sportscar Championship today at Estoril in Portugal with their Dallara Judd, beating the Courage Competition C60JX of Boris Dereichebourg and Didier Cottaz by over a minute. The former GT champions were the class of the field and made up for the disappointment of missing out on victory at last weekends Barcelona race. The result also saw Judd powered cars achieve a unique 1-2-3 finish.

Olivier Beretta was the undoubted star of the opening exchanges as he blasted back through the SR1 field after losing momentum at the first corner when Jan Lammers grabbed the lead in a typically aggressive but fair move. "It was pretty close and exciting and it is a pleasure to race with a guy like Jan in these circumstances," said Olivier. "But the problem was that I started from the inside on the dirty side of the track, even though I was on pole position. This meant that I was off line and I nearly lost it on the brakes as I went on to the marbles. Fortunately I gathered it up, but I was pushed back to 6th place."

Beretta then fought his way back in to the lead in a similar manner to which Franck Montagny pushed his way back to the front just seven days ago in Barcelona, except this time Beretta's team mate Nicolas Minassian was able to cruise to the flag when he took over from the Monagasque at the halfway stage. "The team did a great job and so did Olivier, because all I had to do was bring it home," said Minassian, who was making his first race start since the Indy 500 last May.

In the Dallara's wheeltracks came the Courage Competition C60 of Cottaz and Dereichebourg who had a similar charge up the field to the Oreca car. They impressively recovered lost time from their first stop when the car refused to fire-up and an inspired Dereichebourg proved to be the star of the last part of the race as he hunted down the second placed Dome of Hillebrand. The former F3000 team mate of Juan Pablo Montoya claimed the runners up spot with a finely judged move on the young Belgian in to the first corner with just 25 minutes remaining. "The team were fantastic today and all the practice we have done on our pitwork has shone through," said a delighted Boris, who also won a race here in Portugal last year.

Lammers' Dome suffered from a wrong choice of tyres throughout the race, as well as a broken radio link between the drivers and the pitwall, which under the circumstances of the fraught opening lap battle, may not have been a bad thing as far as the team was concerened. Jan, who has gained a reputation for his explosive early laps in a race, gave his view from the cockpit of what happened at the start. " It was spectacular with Olivier in the beginning, but it was very fair and there was no real problems but as I looked in mirrors I saw he was not there so I guessed he had run wide," said the 1988 Le Mans winner. "From then on the race was difficult because I think that we probably chose the wrong tyres for the conditions which were hotter than we expected."

Pescarolo Sport were slightly disappointed to be in 4th place at the end of the afternoon as they had started well with Jean Christophe staying in contention with the top three in the opening stint. However, thereafter the C60 Peugeot, like others, suffered from tyrewear and when Franck Lagorce took over the turbo charged car, more time was lost as a result of tyrewear. "It was frustrating because I think we should have gone for softer tyres today," said Boullion after the race. "The rears were not too bad but our set-up dictated that we could only have relatively hard rubber, so we were a bit stuck during the race."

R&M were delighted to register their first race finish in what is only the second ever event for the all new chassis. The car was running with a lower profile to the rear wing for this race which gave both Alex Caffi and Mauro Baldi greater stability and less oversteer which they had experienced last week at Barcelona on the cars debut. 5th place for the team was made all the more poignant by the fact that the team's co-owner Paolo Radici was forced to return home due to the death of his brother last night. As a mark of respect the team decided to race the car without any decals and a plain black livery for this race.

Durango Corse were the only SR1 retirement today with Mirko Venturi being forced to call a halt to his race when he got stuck in third gear. The young Italian had a dramatic start to the race when he briefly ran 4th ahead of Caffi's R&M, but the highly rated Formula Renault graduate lost out to the experienced ex F1 ace when he ran wide in to the gravel.

In the SR2 category for 3-litre cars it was another Italian 1-2 as the Lucchini Engineering team celebrated another resounding display to score maximum points for the second race in succession. Piergiuseppe Peroni and Mirko Savoldi once again took the win ahead of their team mates Gianni Collini and Fabio Mancini but both their races were not without incident.

Peroni missed two gears on the very first lap and as a consequence started the second lap back in 6th position,but the pace of the pretty little Giorgio Lucchini designed cars soon came to the fore and Peroni scythed his way through the field, followed in tandem by Collini who was finding his Yokohama tyres to be getting quicker as the race wore on. After the all important driver changes when Peroni handed over to Savoldi, the race was effectively won as the Peroni/Savoldi car pitted much earlier and made their advantage stick thereafter.

Completing the SR2 podium and ensuring that it was identical to the one at Barcelona last weekend was the SRTS Lola B2K/40 Nissan of Mattias Andersson and Niklas Loven. The all-Swedish team led the opening laps with Loven at the wheel, but lost out to the Italians when they had to make a second tyre change.

Team Jota scored their second consecutive 4th place with Sam Hignett and John Stack completing a conservative race to rack more important miles of knowledge and development data for the Pilbeam MP84 and themselves.

Sportscar veteran Raniere Randaccio was again in the points with his yellow Lucchini Alfa coming home 5th ahead of the Portuguese pairing of ex F3000 racers Manuel Giao and Pedro Couceiro who whetted their sportscar appetites with a trouble free run to 6th in class.

The next round of the championship takes place at Brno in the Czech Republic on May 18 when the FIA Sportscar Championship shares the bill with the FIA GT and European Touring Car Championships. With just 13 points separating the top four teams, more fireworks are almost certain.

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Series GT
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya