The Finale of the European Le Mans Championship in Estoril, Portugal

In October of last year I had the very exciting honour of being invited to the thrilling Finale of the European Le Mans Championship in Estoril, Portugal courtesy of uber talented racing driver Charlie Robertson, who along with team mate Sir Chris Hoy, formed the no3 Team LNT Ginetta Nissan. Having already secured the LMP3 title for the championship, it was fitting that their teammates Michael Simpson and Gaeltan Paletou took their first win of the year.

Before becoming a very talented photographer, my partner Barrie Downie had a career as a racing driver and taught Charlie (the son of a friend) to race. He also bought him his first race suit at the age of 8 years old. Since then Charlie has never looked back and has been a winner in everything he’s ever driven. From the entry-level Ginetta Junior series – which he won in 2012 – to BRDC Formula 4, the Ginetta GT4 Supercup and the LMP3 class of the European Le Mans Series, pretty impressive considering he is a mere 18 years old!!

After so many huge achievements Charlie gained the prestigious position of factory test and race driver for Ginetta and will be racing around the world in various prestigious sports car championships in the future.

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the pit lane at the event and being fairly uninformed in the world of motor racing until recently, got to spend some time with Chris Hoy who gave me the low down on what goes on behind the scenes to make sure all runs smoothly, before he took over from Charlie in the race…

Once the race had finished and Charlie and Chris had taken their place on the winners podium and celebrated with the obligatory champagne spraying (!) it was time on the Sunday evening for the end of season awards ceremony to honour the 2015 champions. The awards were held in the impressive Centro de Congressos in Estoril (Estoril Congress Centre). The award ceremony, hosted by Bruno Vandestick – speaker at Le Mans – celebrated another great season in the European Le Mans Series. As well as winning the LMP3 category Charlie also took the prestigious title of ‘Rookie of the Year’ meaning he was considered to be the best driver for his first year in Le Mans.

An evening of glitz and glamour followed with a champagne and canapes reception and an opportunity for the drivers and crew to finally relax and let their hair down a little! All in all an amazing day and night!

During our weekend in Estoril we stayed at the stunning Penha Longa luxury hotel and golf resort in Estoril, Portugal.  The resort was truly impressive, located within a national park on the southern Sintra Mountains. As well as the luxurious hotel, the resort included a breathtakingly beautiful 19th century palace which was originally founded as a 14th century monastery, a wonderful spa and wellness centre and an amazing golf course set within historic ruins. The palace and monastery featured in the images below has played hosts to many beautiful weddings and we were fortunate enough to witness one while we were there. I would absolutely love to photograph a wedding there. The opportunities were boundless!

Penha Longa, which was once a retreat for the Portuguese Royal Family, lies just 16 miles from downtown Lisbon so only a thirty minute drive, or a ten minute drive from the beaches of Estoril and Cascais. It is simply a beautiful and incredibly serene place to visit and one I hope I am fortunate enough to stay at again one day.

On our last day in Portugal we took the thirty minute drive into beautiful Lisbon which is a captivating combination of grit and glamour. The city oozes charm with its narrow cobbled lanes, yellow trams that clatter through the streets, cafe culture, street performers, shops and beautiful buildings which are a delightful mix of colourful peeling paint and terracotta tiled roofs. We took in the tremendous views of the city from a rooftop bar, before heading by tuk-tuk to the very impressive Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) situated near the Tagus river for a spot of lunch in one of the many cafes in the area. After lunch we took a stroll around the shops and made a few purchases which included my absolute favourite tan cape from Zara and a bargain pair of tan suede tassel ankle boots that I have worn to death ever since!

Lisbon is definitely a city I would love to see more of in the future, such is its eclectic mix of old and new, character and charm… The whole weekend was an experience I won’t forget!


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