"I've always believed that endurance races are won from the middle to the end."
For Manuel Gião, Elias Niskanen and the Lema Racing team it was “vine, vidi, vici”… in the Iberian Supercars Endurance and in the Campeonato de Portugal de Velocidade (CPV) this season.
Gião's experience, who, at 51 years of age, added another trophy to his long and successful career - the last one was won in 2021 in a one-make cup series - helped to make the difference.
"Since I stopped racing in Italy a few years ago and came back home, I have taken part in several Iberian championships and so now, in 2022, coming back to a championship has made me feel at home. The year before I had opened my structure, MG Competição, and I intended to put it into action in the championship, but we found that we still didn't have all the conditions to do a good job. And that's where Lema Racing and Niskanen came in,” said Gião, adding: "Everything went well, from the team to the drivers, in terms of speed and experience, to the car. We finished the season with a good margin to our rivals, which was very relevant when facing very strong opponents. McLaren Barcelona invested a lot in the championship and we were the leaders and winners, as a result of an excellent job".
The advice of the Portuguese experienced driver, who was well supported by the Lema Racing crew in the preparation and assistance of the Mercedes-AMG GT4, was crucial for the Finnish driver Elias Niskanen's quick adaptation.
"Elias also had an important role in the car setup and I took my advice in other areas, in terms of advice, because I always defended, for example, that endurance races are won from the middle to the front. In Portimão, the asphalt temperature was between 40 and 50 degrees, so there was going to be a huge degradation of tyres and I defended, as it proved to be right, a more conservative strategy to start and then increase the pace. Elias always did what we asked him to do. It was a good marriage!”.
For Finnish youngster Elias Niskanen, who made his debut in Iberian competitions in 2022, the start of the season was not without some complications and an about-face in the second half proved decisive in winning the title, as he summarised: "The start of the season was challenging, but in the end we improved and won the championship. The new tracks brought challenges when we only had a few practice laps before the race. My team and my teammate did a great job throughout the season. In the end, I was very, very happy.”
Plans for 2023
For Manuel Gião, the plans for 2023 are already in place, and they are currently in raising sponsorship to repeat his participation in the series. "My structure, which already has a solid base to grow on, will be one of the priorities, not least because I need to secure my future. As a driver, I consider myself competitive and hope to continue competing in the championship with MG Competição, but I will need to purchase a car. We are working to find the partners to take this project forward,” he said.