Silverstone for the Algarve

THE ALGARVE’S answer to Silverstone, which could see the return of Formula 1 to Portugal, and is one of the most important forthcoming projects for the promotion of the country’s tourism, is finally moving forward. The new motor racing track planned for Mexilhoeira Grande, near Portimão, represents one of the largest ever investments in the region, promising a spectator capacity of 150,000 and bigger and better conditions that the existing circuit at Estoril.

Now, two-and-a-half years after the project was initially announced, there is finally some progress being made with the paperwork, which has required the approval of five separate ministries. The project has been passed between the Ministries for Tourism, Economy, Youth and Sport, State and finally the Ministry for Environment and Planning. Bureaucracy and lengthy consultations have caused the considerable delays to the project getting off the ground. However, the news is that the plans are well on the way to being approved for construction to begin.

Despite the lengthy wait, Horácio Nunes, the project’s promoter, remains very enthusiastic and explained the current position, “at this moment, we have everything ready to go forward, including the environmental impact study, and the file has been placed directly into the hands of the ministers concerned,” he said.

The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, as it is known, is at the top of a list of projects relating to the promotion of Portuguese tourism and is reportedly considered to be a priority amongst the government. If it goes ahead, Portuguese race fans may well see the return of stars like Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello after Formula 1’s hiatus of eight years following Estoril’s departure from the circuit. Only the current instability and political uncertainty is now delaying the final stages of the approval process for the motor racing track.