Da Costa on home race: “Portimao… it’s going to be really special”
Antonio Felix da Costa will be racing on home soil for the WEC 6 Hours of Portimao next week where the fans, his friends and family will be able witness his efforts.
The previous WEC round in Portimao in June 2021 was held under Covid-19 restrictions meaning the Portuguese fans were unable to see their home driver in action. He’s now the WEC LMP2 champion and wants to go out of the ultra-competitive category in style.
Yet da Costa’s 2023 is a slightly complicated story. He sat out the 1000 Miles of Sebring last month and will race for one last time in the Hertz Team JOTA LMP2 car with Will Stevens and David Beckmann before moving over to the Porsche 963 with Yifei Ye and Stevens for the 6 Hours of Spa at the end of April.
“I have lots of mixed feelings going into Portimao because it is the end of one story with another about to begin,” da Costa told FIAWEC.com this week as he recovered from the latest Porsche training camp.
He added: “I kind of landed there (in LMP2) almost by surprise, as it wasn't something I was chasing. When I left BMW the opportunity came very late. I got signed a couple of weeks before Silverstone round one in 2019 and my life has changed ever since then.”
Da Costa is fully aware of the challenge ahead in Hypercar, but now, as a Porsche factory driver he is relishing the challenge of going head-to-head with multiple champions and legendary manufacturers such as Toyota, Peugeot, Cadillac, not to mention the Porsche Penske squad with which he and JOTA will be pitted against.
“I knew the Hypercar class was coming obviously, so it made sense to be there, and I always wanted it with JOTA,” he said. “I am in the car for a one off at a home race is amazing. I will be in just full enjoyment mode and starting to work with the team for the year is great. I love those guys and they are my family as I've been there for almost four years now.”
Even when he’s not in the cockpit of a car, da Costa is learning all the time. This was evident at Sebring where he spent the week with his team observing from the other side of the garage for a rare insight into how the races he usually partakes in are run.
“It was super interesting because obviously, there's always things you can learn and see and I had time to go up and down the pit lane see what other teams were operating. There's always interesting things we can learn from being on the sidelines, - from simple things like where the where the drink bottles are placed between stints to how the intercom connection is, etc. I know how things are happening behind my back and small factors that can help me to trust this great team even more.”
Da Costa, born and raised in Cascais close to the Estoril circuit, has waited a long time to perform in front of his home crowd properly. He did it in his junior single-seater career on rare occasions but now he will take part in a world championship race as a champion, and he couldn’t be happier.
“It's going to be interesting seeing this new era with all the Hypercars racing at Portimao which is a super hard track for traffic management. So, the race itself will be more chaotic than the past for sure.
“The last time we're racing two years ago, there was no fans allowed which really sucked. Not even my family came to that race, so now it will be full family and loads of friends, and I think there will be loads of fans for me to meet too. It's awesome to be able to race at home because a lot of my friends and a lot of the people that follow me they don't get to come to many races.
“I just can’t wait to be there in the WEC paddock as a driver again. I think it’s going to be really special.”