A 24-hour race decided by… less than three minutes. The Fouquet Nissan of Portuguese Manuel Aires, who was accompanied by Frenchmen Mickael Pisano, Jérémy Warnia and Jean-Luc Ceccaldi, won the BP Ultimate 24 Horas TT Vila de Fronteira, in one of the most exciting finishes in the 25-year history of the ACP race. Large thousands of people filled the Alentejo village.
A few minutes after winning the BP Ultimate 24 Hours TT Vila de Fronteira in an emotional way, Mickael Pisano hit the hood of his Fouquet Nissan to try to control his adrenaline. “I walked hard for three hours! I have a fantastic car and I gave it everything! I’m proud to win here in Fronteira”, said the French driver. The team entered by the Portuguese Manuel Aires, which in addition to Aires and Pisano also included the Frenchmen Jérémy Warnia and Jean-Luc Ceccaldi, had just taken the lead in the penultimate of the 104 laps it did around the Terródromo, in one of the most exciting finishes ever in the Automóvel Club de Portugal competition.
At 23h45m, the Frenchmen Laurent Poletti, Franck Cuisinier, Ronald Basso and Adrien Favarel seemed to be on their way to a second consecutive victory in Fronteira, after having led for much of the race. However, the MMP team miscalculated the amount of gasoline needed for the final driving shift and Poletti had to slow down for the last two laps to ensure he reached the finish. On a 16.4 kilometre track, this meant the decisive overtaking of Pisano, who would finish 2m37s ahead after 1,440 minutes of racing.
Manuel Aires, born in Alfândega da Fé, has been emigrating to France for 30 years and has been competing in Fronteira since 2019. “In the 24 Hours of Paris, we finished second, right at the limit, less than two minutes behind first. Now it was our turn!” he stated, pointing to the sky.
Behind the teams of Aires and Cuisinier, the podium was completed by the Portuguese-French team of Claude Fournier, Ricardo However, Gustavo Moura and Gustavo Moura Jr., in an MMP that won the T4 category. The first 100 per cent national team was made up of Amândio Alves, João Silva, Márcio Reis and Rogério Reis, on another machine built by the French company MMP, in the T3 category. The top 5 was completed with the formation of Ricardo Soares, which also included João Dias, Luís Maximino and João Marques (Nissan Navara), just in front of another Nissan but in the T2 category, driven by Henrique Lourenço, João Lourenço, Ricardo Sobral and Nuno Sousa.
A total of 64 teams managed to complete the tough Alentejo marathon, among the 77 competitors and more than 300 riders who lined up at the start, from Portugal, France, Belgium, Latvia, Austria, the Netherlands and Peru.
From the Baltic Sea to Alto Alentejo
What drives a team of six people to travel 4,500 kilometres from Latvia to compete in a 24-hour off-road race in Alentejo? Igor Skoks and his Tempo 24H are already well-known figures in the BP Ultimate 24 Horas TT Vila de Fronteira. They travel from Ventspils, a port city on the Baltic Sea. “We have been racing at Fronteira since 2005, first with Oskar and then with this Mitsubishi prototype. We really liked the organization, the challenge of the race, the people, the atmosphere that is created here in Portugal. We also raced in the 24 Hours of France for several years, but we prefer Fronteira and in recent years we have only done this race. Our car goes by ferry from Latvia to Germany, then comes by trailer to Border. It’s more than 4,500 kilometers, but we liked it and next year I hope to be here again!”, said Igor Skoks, accompanied by his son, fellow driver Rudolfs Skoks. The team’s third driver is Arvis Pikis, whose son is one of the two mechanics of the Mitsubishi Pajero with which the Latvian team won the 24 Hours of Borders in 2017.
It is a story that is similar to that of Pedro Ribeiro, a Portuguese who emigrated to Switzerland and who every year takes a week off and drives 2,000 kilometres from Lausanne to live the Border experience. These are examples that show the special nature of the Automóvel Club de Portugal race, which completed a quarter of a century. The event contributed to one of the biggest floods ever in Fronteira, with thousands of people camping at Herdade do Monte do Cego and in the vicinity of the village, also attracted by the music festival promoted by the Municipality of Fronteira and led by Xutos & Pontapés.