F1 driver backs track.jpg

F1 driver backs track


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HUNDREDS OF rally cars invaded Portimão over the weekend as, for the third year running, the city played host to the Rallye Casinos do Algarve, the Algarve car rally, the last stage of the 2006 Portuguese Rally Circuit.

A touch of glamour was added to this year’s rally. Formula One driver Tiago Monteiro was invited to the event by Peugeot Sport Portugal to drive in the safety car Zero, which followed the cars through the adventurous terrain of the Monchique circuit.

On the evening of November 17, the cars left the Parque das Feiras e Exposições, and followed a circuit through Portimão, as part of the Super Especial night event before embarking on the serious business the following morning.

The rally started at 9.30am near Porto de Lagos, Monchique and finished at 5pm with the presentation of the podium places at Hotel Algarve Casino in Praia da Rocha.

The competition was won by Armindo Araújo in a time of one hour 13 minutes and 27 seconds over the different stages that make up the day-long rally. Miguel Campos and Ricardo Teodósio finished second and third respectively.

Monteiro, who was new to the challenges posed by operating a safety car was hindered by the bad weather on Saturday and did not manage to finish the course.

Speaking at the event, Monteiro was asked his opinion on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve project. The project, a planned Formula One racetrack at a large site close to Mexilhoeira Grande, is currently under public discussion and has been in planning stages for the past few years.

Residents in the area have made their disapproval of the project well-known as they believe that the racetrack would trigger drastic changes to the quiet, undeveloped part of Portimão.

Monteiro took the opportunity to show his support for the planned racetrack and said he was prepared to “give a helping hand” to the project, which he believes will bring significant interest from Formula One planners and, if it came to fruition “would be seriously considered as a Formula One race venue”.

Regarded as a priority investment by Portimão Câmara, the plans for the racetrack include a massive 80,000 capacity spectator area, a karting track and a tourist complex with a five star hotel and 140 apartments.

A technological park dedicated to investigating and developing components of professional motor racing is also planned.

According to Paulo Pinheiro of Parkalgar, the company in charge of the project, work could be completed in 18 months once the ‘green light’ for construction is received.

Monteiro has been racing in Formula One for two years. Last year he scored seven points, coming 16th in the driver’s championships with Jordan and his third place finish in the 2005 US Grand prix established Monteiro as the most successful Portuguese Formula One driver in history.

This year, he joined Spyker, a newcomer to the world of Formula One.