Mark Hales - Archives - Portimao

Elevated challenge

Portimao. Length 2.9 miles. Location, near Portimao in Portugal’s Algarve. Built 2008.

This is the kind of track you thought they couldn’t make anymore, and yet it incorporates all the stuff necessary to hold a Grand Prix, should enough money pass into the management’s coffers. The Autodromo do Algarve has the elevation essential to a dramatic lap - look at the aerial shot and it looks like so many other attempts to cram as many corners as possible into a piece of real estate, but it's not like that from the driving seat. That's partly because of the sheer size of the plot, not perhaps quite on the scale of Spa, but with switchbacks which are steeper and enough run off area to keep you out of too much trouble. It also makes good use of width. The plunge which sweeps through more than 90 degrees to lead onto the pit straight feels like a motorway but if the quick line is tighter, a mistake over the hump in the middle will usually just run you wide. It’s part of an 18-turn challenge which is extra complex because so much of it is blind – even the main straight is a switchback which hides the braking for the turn at the end - but it offers as many left turns as it does rights, both fast and slow and the whole is fantastically exhilarating. There are track days available, added to which the Algarve is already a popular destination for golf, parachuting and seafood so the availability of cheap flights is guaranteed and it’s a short drive from the track to the coastal towns with their variety of fresh fish restaurants. Accommodation is cheap and plentiful.            

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Magny Cours Image
Magny Cours

Good in parts.
Magny Cours. Length 2.74 miles. Location, near Nevers, central France. Built 1960. It is easy to let parts of Magny Cours annoy you. The sequence whi... Read More