The Superleague Formula by Sonangol circus rolls into Estoril next weekend (5/6 September) where two titans of Portuguese football will go head-to-head. Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto may not have played each other on a pitch yet this season, but the pair has been in close quarters on track throughout the 2009 Superleague campaign.
FC Porto scored their first ever series victory in race two at Donington Park last time out to earn their place in the Super Final. Tristan Gommendy was at the wheel that day but the Frenchman will step aside in Estoril to allow Porto-local and GP2 race winner Álvaro Parente to make his Superleague debut.
The connection with FC Porto has existed since the beginning of the Superleague project, but competing in GP2 has made it impossible to co-ordinate everything, said Parente. Happily, this time things are different as Ive got a window to race for Porto at Estoril, which makes me very happy because they have always been my club. Although I don’t know the car, Im expecting a good result and that’s what I am going to work towards. I know the Estoril circuit quite well, which is always an advantage, and I think my experience in GP2 will also allow me to get up to speed with the car quickly. It’s a new challenge in my career and I want to make the most of it. Racing at home is always good and hopefully I will enjoy lots of support from the Porto fans.
Looming large on his radar is bound to be the green and white hoops of Sportings Pedro Petiz who finished runner-up behind Porto in that second Donington race. The Portuguese duo know each other well from childhood but wont be offering any quarter once the lights go out come Sunday. Alvaros a good friend, confirmed Petiz. We grew up and went to the same school together. But thats all going to be put to one side once were out on the track. Its going to be a great battle. Theres been a lot of media attention regarding the derby between Sporting and Porto. The race has been promoted really well so Im confident that there will be a lot of green and white in the stands.
Im really aiming for at least a podium finish. We were fast at Donington and have improved every single weekend. Weve worked hard over the first half of the season specifically for this race and the second half of the championship in order to gather as many points as possible. Were confident. Sporting has put a lot of trust in me so Im really hopeful we can give them a podium at least.
The new football season meanwhile has already witnessed a number of teams go head-to-head, both domestically and in Europe, since the championships previous round in July where Rangers John Martin scored victory in the Super Final, netting himself 100,000. League leaders Liverpool and driver Adrian Valles will be looking to avenge their 2-1 first day Premiership defeat at the hands of Tottenham whose star striker Craig Dolby finished second in Britain and lies third overall. Anderlecht too will be hoping for better fortune on the race track after they were humbled 8-2 on aggregate against Superleague rivals Olympique Lyonnais during Champions League qualifying.
As well as the debut of Parente, round four also marks the 2009 series bow of four other drivers. In a major coup, four-time Champ Car champion Sébastien Bourdais transfers from Formula 1 to Superleagues FC Sevilla, Dutchman and reigning Japanese F3 champion Carlo Van Dam takes over the PSV Eindhoven hot seat, Franck Perera swaps his GP2 duties for the familiar surroundings of an AS Roma cockpit (the Frenchman drove for the team in six races last term) while Maria de Villota becomes Superleague Formulas first female driver after joining Atletico Madrid. Previous incumbent Ho-Pin Tung takes Scott Mansells place at Galatasaray while former FC Sevilla driver Esteban Guerrieri is installed at Olympiacos.
Aside from rivalries and driver changes, a new system for deciding the six Super Finalists will debut in Portugal. The standing start first tested at Donington has been retained with the top half dozen point scorers over the two feature races taking their place on the grid. This is in contrast to the two previous Super Finals where the top three from each feature race were rewarded.
Superleague Formulas show will star on Friday, September 4th when at 16.30 Porto FC, Sporting Club, Corinthians and Flamengos car will run around Estoril streets. The program continues with the drivers draw for qualifying, where, at the Casino de Estoril, each of the 18 teams are divided into two groups of nine prior to the weekends racing.
You can catch hour-long Superleague Formula by Sonangol highlights on British Eurosport 2 (Sky Digital 411 and Virgin Media 525) on Sunday, 6 September at 6.30pm BST.
To purchase your tickets for the Portuguese round, visit http://www.ticketline.pt/Espectaculo.aspx?IdEspectaculo=778