The Eight Hours of Portimao, the second round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship, is a significant event for multiple reasons.
For starters, it’s the first time that the WEC has visited the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, a venue previously used by both Formula One and the European Le Mans Series.
It’s something of a first for most people, and for many drivers, like Porsche’s Kevin Estre, who’s never raced there, it’s an all new experience.
“I’ve done two test days in 2017, that’s it. So a bit of an unknown, that’s a very very special… I can’t remember the last time I went to a track with so little experience racing there the last years so it is a bit different than normal but I feel we are prepared to be honest. The WEC team is doing only WEC and therefore we are well prepared for this race.”
Another significant event in the paddock was the longawaited arrival of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus and their enigmatic team owner, Jim Glickenhaus.
The American maverick, along with his son Jesse, cut something of an out-of-the-ordinary figure in the WEC paddock. With both men sporting their trademark cowboy hats, they were welcome guests in a paddock that seemed to greatly approve of their arrival.
Both father and son had it busy during their first proper day in the paddock, fielding question from the media, talking to members from other teams or showing the lone 007 Hypercar sitting in their garage.
It seems like the pair are genuinely proud of their passion project come to life, and the championship very much seems happy to have them there.
There was, however, another reason why the Friday at Portimao felt somewhat unusual. For the first time in a long time, teams were holding in-person media sessions again.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, teams understandably curtailed the traditional, face-to-face sessions to ensure everyone’s health and wellbeing.
For the past year and a half, sessions were done via video calls as teams tried their hardest to give media access in unprecedented times. Of course, it was never the same.
Now, with vaccination rates steadily climbing, and infection rates in decline, some teams, like Toyota and Porsche, have began to slowly return to their old ways.
There are still measures in place, obviously, with media and drivers gathering in open air outside hospitality units instead of in a confined space, but it feels like definitive step to normality.
For someone who hadn’t had an in-person media session since December 2019, that came as a very welcome decision.
Baby steps. Let’s hope we can take more soon.