By: DAISY SAMPSON
AFTER YEARS of planning, months of building and weeks of speculation the Algarve Motor Park finally opened its doors to the public last weekend to host the World Superbike Championship.
The park was officially inaugurated on Sunday by the minister of the economy, Manuel Pinho, the secretary of state for tourism, Bernardo Trindade, the secretary of state for youth and sport, Laurentino Dias and Portimão Câmara president Manuel da Luz.
“It is an honour to be inaugurating this beautiful and valuable asset to the Algarve, congratulations”, said Manuel da Luz.
Sunday was the biggest day of the weekend at the park with the highest number of visitors and a packed schedule of entertainment including dance performances, an air show and the singing of the Portuguese national anthem by renowned singer Rita Guerra.
As an extra bonus Michael Schumacher made a surprise appearance and went onto the grid before the start of the final Superbike race to chat with the racers and teams. Continuing in the spirit of Formula 1 there was also an impressive demonstration of what the future may hold for the motor park as a Toro Rosso F1 car was driven around the track by Jaime Alguersuari.
Those who visited the park over the three day event had mixed reactions. The track itself was considered to be a huge success by all involved, race fans were thrilled by the extensive views from the grandstand while riders tested their bikes on the technical and challenging undulating circuit.
Unfortunately, the further back from the track you went the more it became obvious that the Algarve Motor Park is very much still a work in progress.
The delay to the opening of the A22 access road left drivers in confusion while the car parking situation was only alleviated by the fact that so many people had arrived by motorbike.
The bad weather on the Friday and Saturday meant that the areas that had not had grass laid had turned into slippery mud pools, and attempts to paint the mud green had failed to disguise the problem.
One race fan told The Resident: “The track is phenomenal but it looks like it has opened probably six months early. I would come back though because I am sure that when it is totally finished this will be a motor park to challenge the best in the world.”
There were also issues with the facilities for fans once they had negotiated the traffic and mud when they entered the park. Spectator Luis Santos told The Resident: “Where I was sat in the TMN stands, I had a great view but there were only three urinals for all the men where we were sat, and the queue to buy a drink was more than one hundred metres long.”
A spokesman for Parkalgar told The Resident: “It has been a rocky start but overall it has been fantastic. We hope to iron out all the problems as soon as possible.”
The next event at the Algarve Motor Park is the Spanish GT Championship to be held on Sunday.
For further information please visit www.autodromodoalgarve.com
What a fabulous weekend bt Michael Reeve
Day off work booked? check…
Ticket for the weekend purchased? check…
Appropriate clothing selected? check…
Flask and sandwiches packed? check…
Off I go to the Autodromo do Algarve to see Friday’s ‘Free Practice’ for the World Superbike and Supersport series, as excited as I ever was when I used to go racing all those moons ago.
Of course the facilities weren’t ready; of course the car-parking wasn’t finished except for in front of the main Grandstand; of course there wasn’t a single place to buy a coffee or a sandwich or a tee shirt or a cap, but those things make no difference to race fans. Of course the circuit lost out financially, as it did all weekend for those same reasons, but for the fans it was all about the track and the action.
Friday practice was a mish-mash of bikes out, bikes in, riders talking to mechanics, engines revving, tyre changing and bikes back out for more high speed action, all watched from the stand opposite the pits by ardent race fans.
It was interesting to watch as they came out for their first ever test at a brand new track. Watching them charging down the start finish straight and then letting off the revs very early and sitting up to look over the crest of the hill at the end of the straight, almost tiptoeing over the edge as they assessed the drop at high speed.
It didn’t matter if they were the newest rookie or the new World Champion, every one of them treated the place with respect and it was fun to watch them braking later and later as the session progressed and they became more confident, until finally they were barrelling down and over the crest of the hill, sitting up and slamming on the brakes as late as they could before diving into the first corner – oh yes … this was going to be a good weekend.
With the exception of the day off work, the same check list was ticked over the next two days, as Linda and I set off to watch the Saturday qualifying. We settled into our carefully selected positions to watch the action and get our first sights of these masters of two wheeled monsters, getting to grips with the track and draining every last ounce of speed out of the machinery. We watched as they tested various braking points in the corners in front of us, after screaming down one of the fastest parts of the track at Craig Jones’ corner, named in tribute to the Parkalgar rider who tragically died at Brands Hatch earlier this year. Oh yes – we had picked the right bancada to be in.
Sunday was race day and off we went. We had been listening to the bikes steaming down the A22 for a while, building the excitement and, after a short delay in traffic, we were at the car park and walking to the track. We thought it was quite early but I had forgotten just how early bike fans like to get to the track and the bancada we were in was already full when we arrived. The atmosphere was jovial and picnic boxes were in abundance as people set themselves for the day … and what a day.
The racing was excellent in all classes but the pinnacle was to see a truly outstanding rider, or to use the more appropriate Portuguese word, Pilot, like the newly crowned World Champion, Troy Bayliss, wring the neck of his Ducati and winning by a country mile in both races. It was a privilege to watch the man race and as much as we were cheering for the Brits and later for Miguel Praia the Portuguese Parkalgar rider, it was Bayliss that was the class act and was deservingly the inaugural winner on the new track in his last races before retiring from the sport.
We drove home in the melee of bikes and cars leaving the Autodromo and reflected on the weekend. It is magnificent that we now have such a facility in the Algarve and besides that a track which the riders universally hailed as a great one. There were some problems, that is true and there is still a lot to do before the next event in April, but that will not take away from the experience which was excellent. Well done to all concerned – it was a fabulous weekend. Thank you.