The two qualifications for the Estoril Season Finale by NAPA races took place on Saturday afternoon, and on-track excitement was a constant, resulting in surprises and confirmations, promising thrilling races and exciting decisions for Sunday at Autódromo do Estoril.
After yesterday's free practice sessions, highly contested qualifications were expected, marked by heavy traffic, which indeed occurred. However, another factor came into play - the track temperature, significantly low, made it challenging for the drivers to warm up the tires.
Qualification 1 – José Carlos Pires on Pole, but Rivals Close
With each qualification offering a point to the pole-position holder, title decisions began immediately with the green lights, although the initial laps of the session were spent warming up the tires and finding a good position in the pack of thirty-four cars to complete a clean lap.
Among the GT4 Pro, it was José Carlos Abreu in the BMW M4 GT4 from Speedy Motorsport who best faced all challenges, securing a pole position that allowed him and his teammate, Francisco Abreu, to slightly extend their lead over rivals Nuno Pires and Elias Niskanen.
However, the Bronze driver of the Lema Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 marked his opponent well, clocking the second time, just three tenths of a second behind the pole-sitter, and positioned himself to fight for victory in the first race tomorrow.
The next two positions were occupied by two more Mercedes AMG cars, the Racar Motorsport model driven by Manuel Gião, and the NM Racing Team's car led by Guillermo Aso, both with remote possibilities of fighting for the division title.
In a good position to claim the GT4 Bronze championship was Jorge Rodrigues in the Veloso Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4, securing the division's pole position and adding a point to his tally. His main rival in the title race, Alberto de Martín, in the NM Racing Team's Mercedes AMG, was not far behind, securing the seventh overall position, with Sérgio Azevedo, driving the BMW M4 GT4 (F82) for Batina Racing, placed between them in the eighth position.
In the TCR class, the surprise was the return of António Coimbra, who took the Sports & You Hyundai Elantra N TCR to the top of the classification, securing the pole position for the first race of the program.
Daniel Teixeira could not complete a clean lap in the JT59 Racing Team's Cupra TCR and only managed the third position in his division, and the twenty-fourth overall, forcing him into a massive recovery during tomorrow's race.
Two places ahead will be his rivals in the Touring Car category, with Borja Garcia in the BMW M240i Racing also securing the pole position for the TC division.
Season rookie Miguel Nabais repeated his feat from Jerez, securing the best time among the GTX drivers, claiming a solid tenth overall position. On the other hand, Álvaro Ramos, driving the Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 and a strong candidate for the division title, could only manage the fourth position in his class and the twenty-seventh overall, facing a significant challenge tomorrow along with his teammate, Fernando Soares.
The Araújo Competição driver also finished behind Dave Benett in the Porsche 911 Cup, the rival in the fight for the GTC category title.
Series returnee Rui Mirita came back with a pole position in the Cup division, setting the stage for a good race tomorrow.
Qualification 2 – Debutant Stuns Candidates
The second qualification was also highly contested, with several drivers taking turns at the top of the time chart, including Orlando Batina, Francisco Abreu, Elias Niskanen, and finally, Jan Duran, who, in his debut, secured the pole position for the second race.
The Spaniard youngster, driving the Mercedes AMG for NM Racing Team, beat the similar car from Lema Racing driver by Finland’s Elias Niskanen, with the two finishing the session separated by 0.1s.
With this surprising result from series newcomer Duran, Guillermo Aso shows determination to stay in the title fight with the Finnish driver from Lema Racing and his teammate Nuno Pires, as well as with Francisco Abreu and José Carlos Pires in the BMW M4 GT4.
The session did not go well for Francisco Abreu, finishing in the sixth position on the starting grid, just behind the two main contenders for the GT4 Bronze title.
Patrick Cunha in the Audi R8 LMS GT4 secured the pole position for the division but faced strong competition from Nil Montserrat, who, in the Mercedes AMG GT4 from NM Racing Team, was only 0.031s behind his rival in the title race.
After issues in the first qualification, in the second, Daniel Teixeira asserted his dominance and secured the pole position for the TCR division, surpassing António Coimbra by one second.
Héctor Hernández continued his teammate's good performance, securing the best time in the TC division driving the Autoworks Motorsport BMW M240i Racing.
Fernando Soares was the fastest in the GTX driving the Aston Martin Vantage AMR for Araújo Competição, taking another step towards securing the GTX title in the Iberian Supercars Endurance along with his teammate Álvaro Ramos.
However, in the GTC, Marcus Fothergill, the fastest in the Cup division, positioned himself well to compete for the GTC category title in tomorrow's races, driving the Porsche 911 Cup prepared by the English team Tockwith Motorsports.
The races will take place on Sunday, the first at 9:40 am and the second at 2:35 pm, and both can be followed live through the official social media channels of both competitions, with the first one also broadcasted live on A Bola TV.