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Algarve A roller coaster of a circuit

A1GP cars almost as fast as F1 cars at Algarve
Saturday, April 11, 2009

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Marco Andretti gets some much needed international racing experience in A1GP on the undulating Algarve track.  Sure beats the 100% throttle IndyCar tracks that do not test a driver's skill like Algarve does.
A roller coaster of a circuit. That’s what many drivers were saying after experiencing the new Autodromo Algarve in Portugal today.

And trust me, adrenaline-seeking drivers tend not to consider roller coasters as bad experiences. And accordingly, ask a few more questions and you find they absolutely love this new circuit.

Its constantly undulating nature makes for a stomach-leaving driving experience around the 4.6-km track, built for tens of millions of Euros in the sunny Algarve region of Portugal. It will have its maiden international single-seater race this weekend with the Vodafone A1GP Algarve.

After walking the circuit (and as a result constantly climbing and running down the hills) the drivers were excited about getting to try the circuit in anger today. And they were rewarded with a driving sensation scarcely synonymous with any new racing facility.

“It really feels like a roller coaster,” confirmed New Zealand’s Earl Bamber, who finished second in practice today. “It’s a lot of ups and down. I enjoy it though; it’s a lot of blind corners and it makes it difficult.

“It is one of the best circuits we run in A1GP. It’s like one of those tracks from back in the days when they were a little bit dangerous. Not from the point of view that it actually is dangerous, but you know, it feels that way because it has a lot of character-building corners.”

Monaco’s Clivio Piccione was another to rave about the 17-turn course.

“I love the flow of the track,” he told A1GP.com. “I was expecting this from driving the simulator and it delivers. It has some nice quick corners.

“It has some hard braking and it brings some different sensations to normal with the ups and downs. When you come out of Turn 8 and you drop down, it is like a ride, and you feel like you are going to take off. It’s amazing and they have done a fantastic job putting the track together.”

France’s Nicolas Prost added that the track could get even quicker as the weekend goes on.

“It’s very nice and hilly but there is no grip,” he said. “Like many tracks when the asphalt is new there is low grip levels, and it’s going to be the key to this weekend how to make the tires work well on the track.

“I was pushing really hard but people are really twitching. It’s very tough to drive. With a bit of grip it will be big, big fun to drive.”

As for lap times, the A1GP cars are only a few seconds off the F1 test times, so these new A1GP cars are quite the challenge.

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