Motorsports fans will be able to enjoy an unprecedented double Grand Prix treat in the Algarve this autumn. For the first time in 24 years, Formula 1 action returns to Portugal with the Portugal Heineken Grand Prix from 23 to 25 October at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão.
Then, one month later (20-22 November) the same racetrack will make its debut on the FIM MotoGP World Championship calendar, with the 15th (and final) Grand Prix of the 2020 season.
The Formula 1 race is one of the few major global sports events welcoming a significant number of spectators, with a total of 50,000 tickets on sale. According to the Algarve Tourism Bureau, nearly 36,000 had been sold by last week, as well as 3,000 corporate products. Understandably, most (61 per cent) were Portuguese motorsports enthusiasts, but a reported 18 per cent of the tickets (completing the “podium”) had been bought by British and 10 per cent by Dutch fans. The Autodrome normally has capacity for up to 100,000 spectators.
Hotels are also offering special packages for the event, including Quinta do Lago (accommodation and VIP Lounge access): “an iconic weekend of racing… in the exclusive resort loved by Aarton Senna and Rubens Barrichello”.
A Formula 1 Grand Prix has not been held in Portugal since the Estoril race 24 years ago. Welcoming the decision to host the event, Algarve Tourism president João Fernandes said, “We are delighted and proud of this decision… It is a prestigious international sporting event that we have been very keen to have back for a long time.
“This achievement was the result of several years of work and a very great effort by several entities… As a result of this collaboration, it was possible to transform a crisis into an opportunity. We were able to demonstrate that this is a safe destination, with a set of infrastructures to support a high-quality and diversified tourist offering that enriches the stay of visitors, and that meets the necessary requirements for the safety and health of motorsport fans. This is, without a doubt, a very positive endorsement of confidence for the region.”
Referring to the MotoGP event in November, Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme president Jorge Viegas said, “I am very proud that MotoGP will return to my country eight years after the last Grand Prix, which took place at the Circuito do Estoril in May 2012.”
Added Autódromo Internacional do Algarve CEO Paulo Pinheiro, “It is a great achievement for our team to finally have MotoGP at our racetrack. MotoGP is the pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport… We are working to have fans at our race, and we will start with a capacity of 30,000 for the race weekend and then we will decide with Dorna and the health authorities the following stages.”
According to Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, the company signed an agreement in 2017 with Portimao to be the reserve circuit for any kinds of cancellations. “We’ve been to Portimao with Superbike and we think it’s an amazing possibility for us, and also in the agreement is that the track will be resurfaced after the Superbike round. When we explained this to the riders they were excited because they’ve seen the track on TV, but we’ve never been there.
“Portugal has a long history in our sport and there have been some historic battles in Estoril. It’s something very good for us to have the possibility to go back to Portugal, especially with Miguel Oliveira participating as it’s great to have a Portuguese rider able to compete in his own country.”