A1GP Hits New Venue in Portugal
A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to Portugal for the second time in its history this weekend, but with a brand new circuit in the Algarve providing the backdrop for what is set to be one of the most memorable events of the season on 10 – 12 April.
The last A1GP meeting held in Portugal took place at the Circuito do Estoril, near Lisbon in 2005 but with a new purpose-built facility completed earlier this year, the 4.69-kilometre Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve is a truly unique undulating circuit.
Home nation A1 Team Portugal will have the familiar face of Filipe Albuquerque in the cockpit hoping to close in on two other series regulars, Switzerland’s Neel Jani and Ireland’s Adam Carroll, who sit ahead of him in the championship standings. With only nine points separating the top three the battle is heating up as the series nears its conclusion. The 23-year-old is keen to reach the top step of the podium in front of his home crowd after getting a taste for victory back in Chengdu, China at the end of 2008 and finishing on the podium in the last four events.
“I have been very busy with interviews and demonstration runs including taking the A1GP car on the Super Special Stage at Rally Portugal which was really nice, said Albuquerque. “It will be very special racing here in front of my home crowd and I have lots of friends and family coming along too.”
Commenting on the new Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve he continued: “It looks nice. I have been to have a look around the track and driven some demonstrations in a road car, but it will be very different in an A1GP car.
The last corner you can go so much faster with the downforce on the A1GP car. It will be tricky because you have so many up and downhill sections and many blind corners so you really need to know where you are going. It is very wide so will be good for overtaking so I think we will give a good spectacle for the crowds.”
On his chances for the weekend he said: “I think I can win. It’s always my goal. We have been very strong since New Zealand and consistently been at the top at every event so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be up there again here. With the pace we have a win is our aim.
“I am definitely still in the title fight and the championship is now even more open with the confirmation of A1GP Mexico City. We still cannot predict it just being the current top three. We need to be careful .as there are still lots of points to win and if something goes wrong the Netherlands could also be fighting for the championship in Mexico. At the moment Ireland, Switzerland and Portugal are very consistent so it’s going to be tight but I will aim for the victory and we will see.”
Ireland’s Adam Carroll is looking to reclaim his championship lead after a first lap incident with Malaysia last race left him in the gravel, losing the top spot to Switzerland.
Another driver who has had a taste of success is 17-year-old Felipe Guimarães who finished second in South Africa last time out. He will be looking for a repeat performance to help move A1 Team Brazil further up the standings.
“I think the last race was very good and I have confidence right now,” said Guimarães. “In the last race, I saw that I could drive with guys at the front like Neel Jani and Adam Carroll, so I could get a lot of inner belief from that. I have finished in second position in a race, I now want to finish in first position in races and then the championship.
“For the next race in Portugal, I hope I can race with the front runners again. In a sense, racing in the Algarve next week will be the same as Kyalami. It’ll be a new track for everyone and I’ll look forward to it.
“We’re going to work very hard to win, and I cannot predict what will happen. But I’ll do my best.”
Nicolas Prost is also expected to remain as lead driver for A1 Team France while Marco Andretti continues for A1 Team USA.
A1 Team Netherlands will continue its policy of rotating its lead man for the next two meetings, having alternated between Jeroen Bleekemolen and Robert Doornbos all season. Doornbos will be back behind the wheel for A1GP Algarve, Portugal while the team also confirmed that Bleekemolen will return to race at A1GP Brands Hatch on 3 May.
A1GP’s Official Watch & Timing Partner, TW Steel, also continued to showcase its involvement with the series in the build up to the next event with the presence of an A1GP race car on the TW Steel display stand at BASELWORLD 2009 this week – the world’s biggest and most important event for the watch and jewelry industry.
Having started last Thursday, BASELWORLD continued through to Thursday 2 April with the TW Steel-branded A1GP race car attracting considerable interest at the Swiss event, the first time TW Steel has exhibited there.
In addition to the resplendent, A1GP Powered by Ferrari car, the ‘World Cup of Motorsport’ theme carries over into TW Steel’s display windows with several race-related items loaned, fittingly enough from current World Champion A1 Team Switzerland, including a set of Neel Jani’s race overalls, his first place Feature race trophy from Round 4 in New Zealand this season and last year’s World Championship A1GP gold medal. All these items were situated beside TW Steel’s popular A1GP watch collection, launched at the start of the 2008-09 season to celebrate the company’s partnership with A1GP.
“I’m extremely proud that we have such a strong looking stand for our first exhibit at BASELWORLD,” reflected TW Steel CEO, Jordy Cobelens. “Our partnership with A1GP has proved to be extremely important in terms of positioning the TW Steel brand worldwide so it seemed only fitting that we utilize that relationship when promoting ourselves before the industry here in Switzerland.
“The A1GP car has been much admired by all our visitors and it has given us a tremendous opportunity to engage potential distributors and retailers, along with exposing our product to the many people who have stopped at the stand having first noticed the race car. We have enjoyed tremendous traffic at BASELWORLD and having had the opportunity to showcase our partnership with A1GP here in Switzerland we’re looking forward to the next race weekend in Portugal next month.”
The VodafoneA1GP Algarve, Portugal event runs from 10 – 12 April, with the series’ first track action being the rookie driver and developing nations’ sessions on Friday. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint and Feature races will take place on Saturday with the two races scheduled to run on Sunday at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.
Thursday PR activity:
A1GP drivers will be given a unique opportunity to get up close and personal swimming with the dolphins at the Zoomarine theme park at Gui, in Albufeira. Based on the theme ‘The life of the oceans’, Zoomarine’s philosophy is to support active conservation projects, through rehabilitating and reintroducing a wide range of marine species into their natural habitat.
The drivers will get to know and interact with trained bottlenose dolphins, under the supervision of specialized professionals. The activity will commence with a short educational talk to give the drivers some awareness of the protection of the species and some facts about the dolphins and their ecology. Drivers from the following nations will be taking part in the morning event: Portugal, Brazil, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Malaysia, Monaco, and Switzerland.
About the Autodr¢mo Internacional do Algarve:
Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve is located near the city of Portimão; in Sítio do Escapadinho, in the parish of Mexilhoeira Grande, about 4.5 kilometers north of the Algarve Motorway [A22], with a direct link exit at Mexilhoeira Grande.
The philosophy behind the conception of the Algarve Motor Park project was to create a group of facilities, which by being located close to each other, would be mutually
beneficial. The 4.69-kilometre Aut¢dromo Internacional do Algarve is part of a purpose built facility, including a karting track, technology park, five-star hotel, sports complex and apartments, that will be completed during this year.
The natural relief of its terrain has allowed the creation of a truly unique undulating circuit. It has been built with the aim of providing a challenging but fun track to drive on, and all the comments received so far from the drivers confirm this has been more than achieved. The positions of the various grandstands were carefully chosen to guarantee close proximity to the circuit and all the action. This allows the fans to choose between ones offering views of the faster, challenging sections or slower, more technical areas.
Track length: 4.69km (2.91 miles)