Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Autodromo do Algarve - The Portimao Circuit

I'd been hearing loads of great reviews of the recently opened Autodromo do Algarve circuit at Portimao in Portugal. So it was great to have the opportunity to go along and see it for myself at last weekend's World Superbike event.

I've been lucky enough to visit many circuits around the world, including many in the UK, Spain, USA, Belgium, Germany, etc. And I am pleased to report Portimao is the best short circuit I have visited!

The Portimao circuit lives up to its reputation - a stunning track made very special by the quality of the track itself. A circuit with a great mixture of tight bends and long flowing fast corners, but it's the clever use of the gradients and cambers which makes it so interesting from a spectators point of view, and so challenging from a competitors point of view. This must especially be the case for those on motorcycles.

Even on the start finish straight, the longest straight and normally a good place for competitors to relax a little, the motorcycles were lofting their front wheels into the air several times as they crested the hill before the start finish line, and later as they dropped off at around 180mph before setting up for the first right hand bend, a place which saw lots of overtaking.

Following on from the fast first right hander there are two very tight corners, one right and then a left, before the track makes its way uphill again for a medium speed left hander. Then again the bikes were wheelying fiercely as they crested another hill at the back of the circuit, and again a few seconds later on a steep drop off. Another very fast left with a supporting camber and then the track goes right with a challenging dip! I'm starting to bore you now but it just goes on getting better and better - an uphill into a left was a favourite overtaking spot, and then a drop into a very fast downhill long right hander with a cruel off camber hump and drop off at the bottom, where the competitors are really shifting some! This final bend onto the start finish straight looks extremely challenging, and caught out the double world champion James Toseland during the superpole. The bravest through here got the best drive onto the start finish straight, and ex world champion Max Biaggi was making the most of this on a very fast looking Aprilia.

The racing was superb in every class, a sign of a well designed circuit, like Philip Island which also seems excellent at producing close racing. A great weekend for Max Biaggi with a double win and Leon Haslam with two second places.

But back to the circuit. The track is fantastic, and so is Cadwell Park in terms of being challenging! But it is the supporting infrastructure which separates the two by such a massive margin. The roads in and out were all top notch, and we had no traffic issues all weekend. There is free seating in grandstands most of the way round, and viewing is excellent.

The bars, toilets and restaurants were all superb. There is even a very up market, although not over the top expensive, bar/restaurant on the main straight which is open to the general spectators. Here you can enjoy good food, or drinks on the terrace overlooking the start finish straight with a beer (or maybe a local green wine!), while sat on comfortable sofa, with the competitors screaming by!

All in all the World Superbike meeting at Portimao was a great weekend and one which I would whole heartedly recommend to others. I would also recommend the track to anyone wanting to take part in any of the Portimao Track Experiences - a track day, attend the racing school, or get their thrills on one of the superb high speed Ferrari / Porsche / M3 taxi rides or high speed motorcycle pillion rides they offer!

And of course the other thing Portimao tends to have over Cadwell Park (I'm sure we had snow there one time in May!) is the great Portuguese climate, and a whole host of great things to do in Portimao, and fun activities on the Algarve.

We rented a villa in Portimao from Owners Direct, an amazing five bedroom detatched villa with a large heated swimming pool, tennis court and 2 acres of land for less than the cost of a hotel! Great place.

What date is it next year!


1 comment:

Jason said...

I concur with Paul's review of the Portimao circuit.
What a fantastic place!
I live close to the Estoril circuit near Lisbon where they currently have the MotoGP.
Portimao blows it away!
The track, facilities, access and whole set-up are superb.
I would place bets that MotoGP and even F1 will be there soon.
I understand they also organise trackdays and racing experiences.

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