More than 38,000 spectators witnessed the GP2 and FIA GT series finals reaching their climax at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve on Sunday afternoon.
The most significant motor sport events on four wheels staged at the new race track to date offered up everything from high speed thrills and spills involving machines capable of up to 300km/h to a Red Bull X-Fighters aerial acrobatics display and various other side shows.
Blessed by brilliant sunshine, the showcase will have left a lasting impression on the visiting F1 management team, raising the possibility of a Portuguese GP being returned to the country and the Algarve in particular sooner rather than later, a hope quietly harboured by those behind the first-class facility.
The on-track action began less spectacularly for Portuguese hope Álvaro Parente, gear box problems resulting in the Ocean Racing Technology driver qualifying in last place on the grid for the first GP2 race proper. His prospects did not improve as a 23rd lap collision with Mexico’s Sergio Perez nullified his progress through the field led home by already crowned world champion Nico Hulkenberg from Germany.
Sunday’s reverse order start saw the Portuguese to better effect, taking the chequered flag in fifth position before moving into fourth following the penalisation of Perez – the race, interrupted at the start after Herck crashed into a stationary Vitaly Petrov on the grid, was won by Italy’s Luca Filippi ahead of Spain’s Javier Villa and the also promoted Clos bringing the 2009 GP2 season to a close.
At the same time the Portuguese-German partnership of Miguel Ramos and Alex Müller steered their Maserati MC12 into a highly satisfactory third FIA GT place, only just over six seconds behind the French-Belgian Corvette Z 06 of winners James Ruffier and Bert Longin. The lesser GT2 prize went to Barba Lopez’s Ferrari F430.
Next up at the Algarve Motor Park will be the October 16 to 18 Historic Festival, whetting the appetite for the following weekend’s World Superbike and Supersport title deciders.
The latter category’s title showdown between Britain’s Cal Crutchlow and Parkalgar-Honda’s very own Northern Irishman Eugene Laverty, currently seperated by 22 points in the championship standings and well clear of Spain’s Joan Lascorz, should be further defined by this weekend’s 12th round in Imola and the penultimate race at Magny Cours on October 4 ahead of the Algarve climax.