La dolce vita

LAST WEEKEND, Portimão played host to the first European stage of the Formula One world powerboat championships, which began in Doha two weeks earlier. An estimated 30,000 spectators lined the banks of the River Arade for the annual spectacle, which has become a firm fixture on the region’s sporting calendar since 1998.

Saturday’s qualifying sessions saw Finland’s Sami Selio take pole position, ahead of Italian pilot Massimo Roggiero, and Portugal’s own Duarte Benavente. World champion, Guido Cappellini, who has made the Algarve race his own by winning on six of the previous seven occasions, survived a spectacular accident and started in fourth place. However, this did not prove to be a handicap for the Italian star. Taking over the lead from lap one, he resisted one challenge after another, to come home the easy winner once again.

America’s Scott Gillman finished 1.6 seconds behind in second. with Italian and Swedish boats in third and fourth. Benavente retired with mechanical problems, three laps before the end of the race. Cappellini thus restored the pecking order in his team, which had been threatened by his colleague Ivan Brigada’s clear cut success in the Gulf of Arabia. In fact, this time Brigada was one of the pilots involved in several crashes among the record field of 27 that necessitated competitors to regroup in similar fashion to motor racing’s safety car taking to the track.

Portimão Câmara intends to keep the sporting highlight, which enjoys live coverage on national television for as long as possible. But the future is far from certain, as the local authority is finding it increasingly difficult to raise the 450,000 euros needed to organise the event. It is hoped that central government funding, currently providing a contribution of 60,000 euros, can be increased in view of the continued success of the showcase weekend.