Title too close to call ahead of Algarve This season’s topsy-turvy title race continues on September 18/19 when Superleague Formula by Sonangol hits Portimao in Portugal for round nine of the championship.
Superleague Formula’s first visit to the 18-turn, 2.915-mile Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve circuit comes at a crucial stage of a season which has proven as unpredictable as it has exciting.
Davide Rigon travels to Portugal’s answer to Spa-Francorchamps as the championship’s form driver. The Italian was the series’ big winner on home soil last time out at Adria where the RSC Anderlecht man made the most of below-par weekends for rivals Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) and Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) to turn the 2010 title fight into a three-way battle.
While Rigon dominated the event – scoring pole position, race one and Super Final victories – to end the weekend just 12 points adrift of Spurs at the top of the League, season-long title rivals Buurman and Dolby finally came to blows when the pair clashed in the opening race, the Dutchman puncturing the Englishman’s rear-tire and breaking his own front wing while attempting a pass.
Despite the set-back, Dolby’s second place in race two helped him replace Buurman at the top of the standings by a slender three points heading for Portugal, with Rigon looking dangerous nine further back.
Max Wissel’s (FC Basel) return to form in Italy means the German is still only a race victory away from the top spot, while GU Racing team mate Ben Hanley’s incredible championship debut last time out – podiums in race one and the Super Final – as replacement for the injured Chris van der Drift helped keep Olympiacos in contention. However, the Brit won’t be in action for the Greek club this weekend as former A1GP champion and Red Bull F1 test driver Neel Jani takes over for the Portuguese round.
One man hoping to gatecrash the party in Portimao will be Alvaro Parente. The championship’s only Portuguese driver is another in red-hot form right now despite seeing little reward for his efforts in Adria where a pit stop blunder robbed him of a Super Final place.
“It’s great to have a race in the Algarve,” said the FC Porto driver. “It’s a circuit I like a lot and where I expect strong support from my home fans, which is just what happened last year when I first raced in Superleague Formula (at Estoril). I am going to give it my very best shot, and be fast, to give those that will be there supporting me a good reason to celebrate at the weekend.”
In other news, the Portuguese weekend sees the return of Bordeaux and local side Sporting Lisbon to the series after both were absent in Adria. Sporting will call on Maximo Cortes while the French club has Celso Miguez behind the wheel, the Spaniard vacating the Olympique Lyonnais car in favor of Tristan Gommendy.
That has left a space open at Galatasaray with whom Andy Soucek makes his series return, while Frederic Vervisch and Hywel Lloyd both keep their seats at Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven respectively.
Only three rounds remain post-Portimao, starting with Superleague Formula’s first foray outside of Europe for a Chinese double-header on October 2/3 and 9/10, before the season’s climax in Spain later that month.