TAKING ON THE KING OF PORTUGAL
Day 1: September 4th we left Crandon, Wisconsin after a long weekend racing short course. A 2 hour drive to Green Bay, a half hour flight to Chicago, a 10 hour flight to Madrid, and a 3 hour drive later we made it to Vimioso, Portugal for the Ultra 4 race, King of Portugal.
First things first, we needed to find our race Jeep. So we went to the paddock located at a soccer arena. Our truck had already been off loaded so we set up a little make shift pit.
After getting setup we were ready for qualifying the next day so we took off to find our house in a neighboring town.
Winding our way through the countryside and tight roads in the villages we made our way to the town of Sendim, Portugal. We were greeted by our new friend Manuel and his family. They run a bed and breakfast, out of their old family house, that was newly renovated. Manuel would take us to our first of many delicious dinners that night.
Portugal is a meat and potato country and boy do they like their meat. Every night the steaks seemed to get bigger and bigger.
Day 2: After a great dinner and a much needed night of sleep we headed back to Vimioso for qualifying. The course was located at a motocross track that scoured back and forth along the hill side with a flat section that had various man made obstacles like a tire section where you had to navigate through a dozen half buried tractor tires.
With over 50 cars in the field it was an all day ordeal as qualifying went into the night. Casey would be put into the Magnificent 7 ( The top 7 drivers in the class) and would run last. He would fight through all of the dust and darkness and qualify second.
Day 3: Stage 1 would start off with Casey sitting second. Launching off the line into the first set of obstacles.
The pole sitter would have issues with one of the first tough rock climbs and would be hung up long enough for Casey to make a pass for the lead.
The race is a grueling 6 laps winding through the hills of Portugal on a 20+ mile loop, with plenty of rocks and dust to fight through. Casey would pull out a 9 minute lead in the first two laps.
This allowed second to slowly gain on him and while in the pits, Casey would get passed and wouldn’t be able to regain the lead, finishing second on stage 1.
Day 4: The second stage would be the harder of the two and would include the tougher rock sections that were excluded that day before. We’d start off with a 50 second deficit so we had some time to make up on the leader. As the green flag dropped for Casey the leader would end up rolling over on the first obstacle allowing Casey to pass into the lead in the same exact spot as Stage 1. This spot would cause problems for many racers while Casey made it look easy every time.
Photo by Duarte Pinto
Casey would head into the newly added rock sections without any sort of prerunning. After making it through a couple tight squeezes he would find himself on his side for the first time ever in his Jeep. With a little bit of winching he was back on all four and back in the race now running third.
On the third lap we’d run into an issue. Due to user error our winch would be rendered unusable. The Portugal locals would come in clutch though and provide us with a winch straight from a personal vehicle. We had a crowd gathered around us as we frantically replaced our winch and got back into the race. We would get back on course now a lap down from the race leader. With extra motivation from the crowd Casey would push his car to the limit to make up the time.
As the race started to wrap up we found ourselves sitting really close to the overall. The racer who had won stage 1 had DNF’d already and the driver who finished third on stage 1 started 45 minutes behind us. So as the race leader finished we would still be heading out for our final lap with the hopes of taking the win.
After crossing the line, it’d be too close to call the overall, we would have to wait until the awards banquet for an official call.
That didn’t stop the crowd from surrounding the war torn Jeep.
The awards banquet was packed full of drivers, crew and fans alike. There was a full buffet as another helping of meat and potato was served with pitchers of wine on the tables. So we feasted as we awaited the results.
After two days of racing in some of the most brutal of conditions, it’d be announced that Casey took the win and the title of King of Portugal. Our next challenge would be getting that sword on the plane and back to home.
Words and Photos by Kyle Chandler