Next stop: Portugal

by Hal Ridge |

The second round of the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship takes place in somewhat sunnier climbs in just over a weeks time, as the championship heads south to Montalegre, Portugal (April 27th – 28th)

The Portuguese circuit is situated high up in the mountains in the middles-east of the country, in the Vila Real region near the border with Spain. The close proximity to the border means the event is visited by a high number of Spanish fans along with Portuguese locals.

First used by the European Championship in 2007, the circuit is very different to Lydden Hill, England that hosted round one of the championship three weeks ago, requiring a very different skill set.

“Portugal is very different to Lydden, its very high and has wonderful views. This makes a difference to the performance of the engines, drivers always complain about having less power from the engines because of the altitude.” Says Kenneth Hansen, 14 time European Champion.

“The first corner is tricky, it’s like a big U–turn but it is actually two corners with grip, then no grip, then grip again. Through the next section the track dances from left to right and then the circuit heads down onto he the second part of the lap, which is made of sand on top of tarmac. Most drivers cut the kerbs quite hard because they are quite smooth. If you miss the line and go into the sand you can loose one second straight away no problem. The finish part of the circuit is very narrow, you need to be very careful with the steering wheel to carry good speed onto the long start and finish straight. It was never one of my best circuits because my style is not to cut the kerbs so hard, but when you get it right it is very enjoyable.”

Sitting on the top of a mountain gives amazing views from the circuit of the town and the countryside. These views are even better from the two large spectator areas, that sit either side of the control tower on the main straight. The first viewing area, to the right of the tower gives an amazing view of the loose part of the circuit, and of the starting grid. The drivers head to the grid along a narrow road in front of the fans, every one getting a large cheer. The second viewing area is further down the main straight, giving a great view of the start, first corner and jokerlap, which is around the outside of turn one. The paddock at Montalegre is spacious and well laid out, running the length of the main straight on the rear side of the spectator areas.

For atmosphere I would suggest that even with viewing restricted to one side of the circuit, Montalegre is up there with Sweden and France for noise and excitement the entire weekend, but especially when the finals are taking place.






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