WITH JUST a week to go before the inauguration of the Algarve Motor Park, Chief Executive of Parkalgar Paulo Pinheiro spoke exclusively to The Resident’s DAISY SAMPSON about the huge project and what motor racing fans can expect in the future.
Last week it was announced that the new circuit near Portimão had been approved for racing by both the FIA and the FIM.
Although Paulo Pinheiro says he was not worried about meeting the standards required, he had been “anxious” that the track would be ratified by both entities.
“It is very important for F1 cars to be able to use the track because F1 is the highest level of motor racing, and it is a very important label to have, the one that confirms we meet F1 standards,” he said.
However, this does not guarantee future F1 races at the track: “We have done our part; that was to build a top level facility that is able to receive F1. Having a F1 race or not is not something we can decide or do something about.”
Commenting on stories about the possibility of McLaren – Mercedes coming to the Algarve to test their vehicles in December, he said “this is almost confirmed but not yet”, adding that such a move would help boost confidence in the circuit as a possible F1 stage destination.
Paulo Pinheiro added that most of the other F1 teams had been in contact with Parkalgar about the possibility of vehicle testing.
Already a number of events have been confirmed to take place at the Algarve Motor Park (see dates below).
“The events we believe are most interesting are the World SuperBikes, The A1 GP, the FIA GT and the Le Mans Series. This is because the races are very closely run and the cars and bikes featured are really very fast!”
And the Le Mans race is to be run through the night at the suggestion of the Parkalgar team: “To race in August, it had to be at night so that we could attract the crowds that will normally be here in the summer.
“The Le Mans fans without a doubt will be impressed with the circuit; it will be spectacular and there is a very good line up of drivers for the race.”
For the first time, the Portuguese A1 GP team will be competing in their own home race, something Paulo Pinheiro believes is very important for the team.
“This is a chance for the Portuguese A1 team to race in front of their home crowd and there is always extra motivation when you are at home.”
There has been speculation surrounding whether the A1 Portugal team will be basing themselves at the Algarve Motor Park but Paulo Pinheiro could only say that the Parkalgar team are “trying to make the project happen”.
The Superbike World Championship result is already decided but Paulo Pinheiro is confident that there will be increased interest in the race around the world because it is being held at a new track and feels, “with absolutely no doubt”, that visitors, sponsors, racers and teams will be impressed with the facilities and the circuit.
Sadly, Craig Jones, an integral part of the Parkalgar racing team, died during a race in August (see The Resident August 8). Paulo Pinheiro said the entire team would be honouring him in a memorial with his family on Saturday, November 1, while “on Sunday we will fight for the race and do our very best to honour his memory”.
Looking to the future, Paulo Pinheiro hopes that not only will the Motor Park be one of the most important features of the region but also that local motor racing talent can be encouraged: “It will probably not happen from one day to the next but we believe, in the medium term, it will encourage local talent.”
Not all of the 85,000 tickets have been sold for the inauguration of the track and the SuperBike World Championship yet, so there is still time to be part of the celebrations: “We would love to have a full house and are expecting a huge crowd,” said Paulo Pinheiro. “I look forward to seeing you there!”
Dates for your diary!
PARKALGAR’S RACING programme has widespread international appeal, with a number of major world championship races due to be hosted on the track throughout the coming year.
Following the world Superbike competition between October 31 and November 2, the racetrack will be hosting the Spanish GT championship and the PTCC national speed championship on November 9.
Other events that are now booked for next year include the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport on April 12 and the FIA historic Formula One championship on May 10.
On August 1 and 2, the race circuit will be hosting the Algarve’s 1,000Km of Le Mans series, which will replace the usual Monza circuit.
The FIA GT world championship is due to be hosted the following month on September 13 and the GP2 series is due to take place at the track on October 4 before the World Superbike Championship returns in November 2009.
On top of the racing events that will be hosted at the Motor Park throughout the year, there will also be other regular activities at the circuit for visitors and residents to watch and participate in. These events will include special track days for car and motorbike owners to race around the circuit as well as the chance to privately hire the track.
Driving and racing tuition will also be offered for individuals as well as special tuition driving schools for specific activities such as the transport of dangerous matter and heavy loads.
Commercial presentations of new car and motorbike models will also be hosted throughout the year as well as test races for major championships such as Formula 1 and the Le Mans series, during the winter months.
The race track
THE ALGARVE International Motor Racing Circuit is projected to be one of the best and most modern tracks in Europe.
The circuit has 64 different racetrack configurations from the shortest version at 3,465 metres to the longest at 4,699 metres, which will enable it to receive all world motor races.
The modern design of the circuit will also allow users to choose faster, more challenging versions or slower, more technical ones. A total of four layers of tarmac have been laid on the track, taking just 72 hours to lay each one.
Nuno Cerqueira of Parkalgar told The Resident: “When we lay the tarmac we work around the clock in a constant process so there are no joins in the track and it is perfectly smooth.”
The natural landscape, which has allowed the track to be built with accentuated undulations, gives wide views for spectators to follow the action of the races.
Thousands of tickets sold
MORE THAN 30,000 tickets have been sold for the inaugural race at the Algarve’s international racetrack on November 2.
The autodrome has more than 85,000 spaces for spectators as well as a corporate VIP tower with 48 private cabins in the centre of the circuit, offering excellent views of the track.
More than 15,000 spectators will be able to view between 60 and 70 per cent of the undulating track from the primary Grandstand, with more than 70,000 spectator seats and standing spaces dotted around the circuit.
Spectators will also benefit from four giant screens, each 25sqm, which will show live coverage of the races on the track.
For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the website, available in English at www.autodromodoalgarve.com
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