22.01.2024 | News

PTWS Portimao: Rinaldi Racing and ANS Motorsport share victories

Sandro Holzem became the first multiple winner of the Prototype Winter Series season as the safety car played an exaggerated role in proceedings on the Algarve.

Safety car periods in both 50-minute races meant the pitstop handicap system didn’t get the chance to play out as intended. But the cards fell right for Julien Lemoine and Clement Moreno (ANS Motorsport) on Saturday and Holzem (driving solo for Rinaldi Racing) on Sunday.

Race 1

The Saturday encounter was really a case of ‘whoever stays out of trouble wins’. That said, the safety car definitely played its part in the outcome.

The first entry to hit strife was the Inter Europol Ligier – and it all began in the first qualifying session. Mozambican driver Pedro Perino went straight on at Turn 1 and hit the barriers at 165kph, mere moments after he had set a time good enough to secure pole. The 18-year-old felt grateful to escape with nothing more than a sore back after what he described as a brake failure. And despite some frantic repair efforts, the car couldn’t make it out in time to take up its place at the front of the grid.

That left solo racers Sandro Holzem (Rinaldi Racing Duqueine) and Danny Soufi (Konrad Motorsport Ligier) to fight it out at the front in the first half of the race.

Both of these drivers had to sit for the maximum handicap time (151 seconds) in the pits due to their ‘silver’ status, but the lead they had built up in an attempt to cover this was wiped out by a safety car shortly before the pit window. And any chance of winning despite that stroke of fate was shot down by dramas in the second half of the race. While Holzem lost several seconds to a spin, Soufi had a problem with the ‘button box’ that meant his ignition kept cutting out over the final minutes.

Others who could have cashed in on all of this were Chris Short/Wyatt Brichacek (DKR Engineering Duqueine) and solo runner Bernardo Pinheiro (Mühlner Motorsport Duqueine). But Short flat-spotted all four tyres when he spun early in the race, which meant he handed over a hobbled car to Brichacek at the car’s 120s halt. And Pinheiro lost 39 seconds when he inadvertently shut down the car instead of hitting the ignition after his (151s) pitstop.

All these dramas left Lemoine and Moreno to claim the win despite Brichacek closing to within four seconds at the flag. Theirs was by no means the fastest car – but a clean run, their minimal 89s pitstop requirement and that fortuitous safety car intervention shook them up the perfect victory cocktail.

Race 2
There was plenty of intrigue as the cars lined up for the second enduro on Sunday morning. Particularly because the Inter Europol car and Pedro Perino were ready to make up for their rough Saturday, though Perino’s partner Sebastian Gravlund would have to start at the back after missing second qualifying.

It was also going to be interesting to see what Brichacek could do on a clean set of tyres, especially from pole position. The answer was soon revealed, as the American confidently led the pack through the first half of the race.

By the time the pitstop window opened, Brichacek was 3.5s clear of Daniel Keilwitz (Rinaldi Racing Ligier), who was a couple more ahead of Holzem. Next up were Soufi and Gravlund. Meanwhile Saturday winner Moreno, looking forward to that short pitstop, was around 47 seconds back of the leader.

This time the stops were done when the safety car came out and destroyed an intriguing setup. Ironically enough, the cause was Lemoine, who crashed at Turn 9 just after taking over the Ligier.

Short and Steve Parrow had taken over the leading two cars at the stops, while Soufi had jumped Holzem. The American ‘silver’ then proved a little too keen to eat up the two ‘bronzes’ ahead of him at the restart, passing Parrow before the safety car line. The inevitable drive-through penalty ended his challenge.

Short and Parrow, who would have had big leads without the safety car, couldn’t keep Holzem and Perino behind them for long. Perino closed up to the German as the finish approached, the pair still trading fastest sector times as the final lap began with the Perino just over half a second back.

Though a last-gasp win a day after his violent accident might have made for a good script, Perino couldn’t find an opportunity to make it reality. Second ahead of Pinheiro was nonetheless a fine result after what had happened on Saturday.

Holzem’s victory represented his second of the short four-round championship, following the Rinaldi man’s brief, soaking triumph in the Saturday race at Estoril a week earlier.

Handy links:

» Full Photo Gallery

» We asked the paddock!

» Re-Live Saturday

» Re-Live Sunday