JANUARY 9, 2007

Watch out for Portimao

Back in 2003 the town of Portimao, on Portugal's Algarve coast, announced that it was going to build a Formula 1 spec racing facility in order to revive the Portuguese Grand Prix. Two years later the Portuguese Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of the Environment issued a joint statement supporting the plans to give the region an economic boost by creating new jobs and attracting more tourists.

In recent weeks, despite opposition from various political parties, the Portimao Municipal Assembly has allocated two plots of land totalling 800 acres for the new autodrome and agreed to concessions to help the private company Parkalgar, including a 10-year tax break and a low annual rent for the land. Parkalgar says it is going to invest $250m in the project, which will include a 200-room five-star hotel and 160 apartments in addition to a technology centre, which will service the automobile industry. The aim is to start work as soon as possible and to have the track finished by September 2008. The plan is, apparently, to try to negotiate for a Formula 1 Grand Prix at some point after that, presumably because thaat would attract large numbers of Spanish fans. The local authorities are going to fund the construction of a viaduct from the A22 highway to the track, thus making access much easier.

The Algarve would be a popular venue for Formula 1 which always enjoyed its visits to Estoril between 1984 and 1997. In the end the circuit could not keep up with the costs of work that was needed to keep the track up to F1 standards.

Portimao seems keen to spend money at the moment, it has just announced a deal to become the venue of the Powerboat P1 World Championship for the next three years. The event will be the last European round of the championship.