Antonio Felix da Costa said that he felt “really bad” about the collision with his JOTA teammate Tom Blomqvist on the opening lap of the 8 Hours of Portimao but was glad the pair could end up engaging in a “nice, fair fight” for the LMP2 class victory.
Da Costa in the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson tagged Blomqvist’s No. 28 car into a spin at the Turn 3 right-hander, dropping the British driver to last in the LMP2 order.
Blomqvist, Sean Gelael and Stoffel Vandoorne managed to recover over the next few stints before eventually taking the lead from United Autosports in the seventh hour.
Da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez also enjoyed a strong run after bouncing back from a spin caused by contact from the DragnSpeed Oreca. Both of the JOTA cars managed to eke out longer stints than their rivals to avoid a late fuel top-up.
Reigning ABB FIA Formula E champion da Costa emerged from JOTA’s simultaneous final pit stops eight seconds behind Blomqvist, but managed to close the gap in the deciding stint before executing a pass into the Turn 5 hairpin which was a hot-spot for overtakes.
“I felt really bad for the contact with Tom on lap one,” da Costa told Sportscar365.
“I was the one to spin him around. It was just a weird situation where I dived in. I could see that he was not going to see me, and as I was backing out of it, he kind of turned in and I ended up hitting him.
“I apologized to all of the No. 28 crew and I feel really bad for something like that happening.
“I was so happy to see that we got a nice, clean stint at the end to settle things out in a nice, fair fight, and that’s what it was.
“I was a little bit quicker, but Tom was driving super well and making no mistakes. Without traffic, I was not going to pass him. It’s just too hard here.
“I could see the two GT cars coming up, so I decided to really close the gap that lap.
“He got stuck behind the GT car in Turn 4 and I got a run on him down to Turn 5, and had enough to pull out the move.”
Da Costa and Blomqvist were able to battle each other for the win, while the pair kept it clean at the second time of asking to secure a one-two result for JOTA.
The British team’s last such result came in the 2019-20 season finale in Bahrain, where the JOTA-operated Jackie Chan DC Racing team won from the current No. 38 trio.
Da Costa added that fuel-saving was crucial to JOTA’s Portimao victory bid as it managed to conduct nine pit stops with both of its cars, compared with the 10-stop run from third-placed United Autosports which needed to make a final-hour splash for fuel.
“We went longer than anyone else as a team,” said the Portuguese driver.
“We were doing a little bit of fuel-saving and that saved us a stop. That’s why we jumped WRT and United. We were able to go longer every stop and that saved us a splash.
“I knew what they had because it’s the same car, so I knew the strengths and weaknesses and I’m glad it worked out.
“They were doing 29 or 30 laps and we were always going 31 laps. There was a splash of 10 laps to be done at the end, and within the 10 stints, if you’re able to cut that short you don’t need to do the splash. That’s what we did.
“The safety car helped them [United] a little bit, because obviously it was cutting their splash shorter, but we still had an advantage.
“It was super painful in the car to be doing all that fuel saving, but we trusted the processes of the team.”