Category Archives: Algarve International Circuit

Motos in my 2016 Marshaling Calendar

I forgot to add a Motorcycle race to my wishlist in 2016.

So here’s a post reminding myself to do it!

This year I did express interest in MotoGP at COTA but I did it way too late and it didn’t materialize in time even though they accepted me to marshal there. The irony from that experience is that I also reached out to MotoAmerica to see if they needed any staff while I waited on a response from COTA and MotoAmerica turned me down. It’s ironic because it turns out COTA were really short on marshals and could have used any help MotoAmerica were willing to offer, unfortunately it seems that they were not willing to offer help, at least based on my experience. I also did send my interest to marshal a Superbike event at NJMP with MotoAmerica in September, I don’t have very high hopes of being accepted and it won’t be a terribly big loss if they don’t. I have marshaled an AMA Superbikes event at NJMP twice before the series went out of business.

But I do want to do a Motos race in the future. And if I don’t get accepted to marshal Dubai 24h in January I think I will definitely apply to marshal a MotoGP event in Doha, Qatar.

Why Doha?

Because Losail International Circuit is famous in the world of two wheel motorsports. I worked with a Portuguese marshal from Estoril last year who proudly wore his Losail hat while marshaling and had nothing but good things to say about it. Qatar would also be the 15th country on my list of places I volunteered as a marshal, so I’m looking forward to adding that flag to my resume.

I flew through Doha what feels like a dozen times a few years ago when I marshaled in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, sadly I never left the airport in all my time spent there. I really want to check out the country. The craziest bit I flew back from Bahrain to Dubai via Doha, spend a few hours in Dubai, then flew back to Doha to connect to Sepang in Malaysia.

Speaking of Portugal, I would really love to come back to marshal at the Algarve International Circuit in the south of the country. I had such an amazing time in Portimao last year that I cannot wait to return. And like many other places in Europe they are absolutely crazy about bikes. I met a British expat that marshals in Portimao that raved about the time FIM visits their humble little track. So when stars align just right I will be heading back to Portugal!

autodromo internacional algarve

Autodromo Interncional do Algarve is very open to the idea of International marshals so I would strongly urge the Motorsport volunteers of the world to consider adding this gem of a track to their resume. The track is located in a very accessible part of the country just a few hours south of the capital Lisbon, but only about an hour’s drive for the resort city of Faro. It is famous for it’s elevation changes and my favorite feature: elevated marshal posts. If anyone needs some contact details please do not hesitate to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with some really amazing people. I had an amazing time working there.

Elevated Marshal Posts at Algarve Circuit

Every circuit I visit provides an opportunity to learn something new, something unique. The Algarve Circuit where I worked the Maxi 32h event this weekend was no exception. In Portugal they use elevated marshal stations around the Portimão Circuit full of blind corners and significant elevation changes.

For Friday’s practice I got to work Post 06 at the exit of Turn 2 while on Saturday and Sunday I was at Post 11 in the middle of Turn 8. From Post 11 I could look directly down at Post 05 directly behind us as we were significantly higher, and Posts 12 and 13 could look straight down at us as they were ahead of us. If that creates the visual of a side of a mountain you’d be correct in thinking that, basically the circuit goes up and down a pretty steep hill. But the physical stations were no different than stations used at COTA in Texas. There were however Posts 21 and 22 that were on stilts. I kid you not, they were significantly elevated off the ground like so:

elevated marshal post

algarve elevated marshal station

To get in or out you use a step ladder, but otherwise the set up is no different than stations closer to the ground. The difference of course is the visibility advantage this creates:

algarve elevated marshal post

portimao marshal station

Looking out at the part of the course you cover as a marshal you can have an unobstructed view way downstream as well as upstream with no blind spots. And I thought that was a fantastic advantage. Of course sharing this photo on the Flag Marshals of the World facebook group I was quickly reminded how dangerous such a set up can be because there are very limited escape opportunities. Of course, track designers tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to station positioning, etc. But considering that the Algarve Circuit hosts major FIA events like Formula One testing, WEC testing, BEC racing, SBK Superbikes and the Maxi 32h race I worked; surely the safety aspect of the design was taken into the consideration. Additionally, being a modern FIA track it features a ridiculous amount of paved run off and gravel traps followed by deep tire walls, armco and safety fencing. Granted the station is directly above the catch fence but the likelihood of debris flying that high, that far off the racing line is unlikely… I would imagine. Of course no place is completely safe at a race track, but the benefit of having good visibility so you can see stuff crashing into you instead of being surprised when it actually happens and you weren’t able to see it coming has it’s advantages.

In all honesty I wish Circuit of the Americas would implement a similar idea for some of it’s stations. For example I worked Turn 12 last year and Turn 11C this year and in both cases I couldn’t see anything coming at me until the cars were right on top of me. Sure I was behind a safety barrier and a catch fence, etc. But if something were to come at me at a high rate of speed I wouldn’t know about it until the car crashed into me. And I’m not sure if that’s an entirely “safe” scenario.

Part of the criticism about the high elevation of the station is that flags were no longer at driver’s eye level. But again I think is a non-issue as the drivers coming up hill see the top of the station first where the flags are, and only have to look up at the station when they are directly in front of it which means at that point they are no longer looking at the station but further down the track at the next turn. I am all for early warning rather than a “safer” spot that is right on top of the incident or too far along that the driver can’t reasonably take appropriate action because there isn’t enough time to react.

So props to the Algarve Circuit with their implementation of a good idea. And I hope other tracks would consider using a similar concept when it is “safe” and makes logical sense to do.

Maxi Endurance 32h in Portugal debrief

I am so excited to report back from the Maxi Endurance 32h race held at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve this weekend. The trip was a fantastic success and an excellent conclusion to my 2014 season. Portugal became the thirteenth country that I have worked in as a volunteer, and the Portimão Circuit thirty something… But who’s counting? Let me tell you about the awesome time I had.

I had a good feeling about the trip long before it started. You see it was quite late when I decided to put my hand up and volunteer, only about two months or six weeks before the race. And typically that is too late to get registered. But I was lucky. Contacting the promoter resulted in the introduction to the track manager who was happy and super accommodating to enlist me in the ranks of their volunteers. Any track welcomes international marshals with open arms is a fantastic facility in my opinion. And what a fantastic facility Algarve Circuit is. When I arrived there the welcome I received was humbling. I don’t want to say I received VIP treatment because that may send the wrong message, but I certainly felt very special when the boss introduced me to everyone around from Maxi 32h organizers to the AIA marshaling team to track operations and management people. I felt so lucky and proud to be there!

autodromo internacional algarve

The event kicked off to much smaller field than was expected, many teams pulled out at the last minute. And the weather forecast changed to rain both Saturday and Sunday which made some people worry about the outcome. But none of that dampened my spirits. I thoroughly enjoyed myself through and through. I got an opportunity to sight-see the circuit, and witnessed some aspects that I wish other tracks would use. Got to meet some wonderful people, and all that before the cars hit the track. Once the practice started I was given an opportunity to work a great station with a perfect view of a large area of the track which was greatly appreciated. For the race itself I got bumped to another part of the circuit with a big turn and an even bigger elevation change which was definitely one of the more exciting parts of the venue. But my favorite takeaway from the whole experience was checking out the elevated stations of the Portimao Circuit which I’ll cover in another post.

algarve maxi 32h seat supercopa

algarve circuit 1

algarve circuit flags

The 8 hour shifts we worked went by quickly, except for my overnight shift. I didn’t get much sleep and with the darkness, cold and wet atmosphere it was hard to keep my eyes open. But the incidents were few and far between, only a couple of spins, so no Code 60 flags were necessary. But this was a first time I had the opportunity to use the Dutch creation.

algarve maxi enduro 32h

portimao maxi enduro 32h

I got very lucky visiting a very touristy area of Portugal in the off season because that meant the prices were cheaper than usual. For example my car rental cost only about 40€ or just about $50 USD. Navigating the area was quite easy even without a GPS. And my little Opel Corsa did a fine job after I figured out how to properly use it’s primitive but very advanced automatic transmission (LOL). It was pretty good on fuel also, I only used about 35€ on my trip and did over 400km of driving. The hostel I booked 45€ or $56 American and I was the only person staying there, so I had the whole place to myself. The peculiar thing about the location of the place was that it was in a little fishing village called Alvor, smack in the center of the restaurant area, among the tiny little streets that lead to the historic River and Oceanfront promenade that still pays homage to the fishing industry of this area. I mean it was beautiful, simply beautiful.

opel corsa rentalcar in portugal

The food I tried was outstanding. The reviews I read prior to coming recommended seafood because of the historic fishing traditions of this region, but I got to try so many other things besides the delicious sardine products that sustained me for a week. There were lamb chops, rabbit, veal and of course chicken but prepared in ways that were not just ordinary. I miss the food already. In fact the only souvenirs I brought home from my trip were some canned sardines typical to the area, and specifically the “La Rose” brand that put Portugal on the map back when the fishing industry boomed.

portugal seafood

portugal rabbit

All in all I’m very happy with the trip and think it was a fantastic way to end my year and this season. Even though I did one third of the races of previous years I feel really fulfilled because of the trips to Europe I took: France, Germany (Belgium of course) and Portugal left quite an impression and I will be sure to include Europe in next year’s calendar if the stars align just right.

I urge you to consider marshaling in Portugal too, you’ll love it!

algarve marshals group photo

The group photo of the AIA motor clube marshals post-race.  (photo credit Maxi 32h official facebook page:  f/maxiendurance32 )

aia marshal

 

AIA Circuit: http://aiamotorclube.blogspot.com/

AIA motor clube: http://aiamotorclube.blogspot.com/

MaxiEndurance is a Go!

Once the flight is booked there’s no backing out of the event, so my Maxi Enduro 32h is a definite Go! In a typical FlyerTalk.com fashion I’ll be doing a marathon across most of Europe to get to Algarve coast in Portugal with connections in Switzerland, Spain and Germany on the way. Though I won’t have much time to check out Zürich, and will probably have to run across the terminal in Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) to make my flight, I will get to spend the night in Düsseldorf. And while I arrive late, based on my experience in Germany last year around the same time when I went to Bahrain 6h, Sepang 3h and Gulf 12h in Abu Dhabi… well the Christmas markets will be a nice site to revisit.

europe car rental

I got very lucky with my award flight availability and will have just enough time to sightsee around Faro upon arrival and possibly a few hours before my departure the day after the event. I’m amazed with how cheap the car rentals are. Not the traditional companies I typically rent from via CarRentals.com but the no-name brand off the airport property… it’s something like 1/3rd the price. I am definitely looking forward to driving around Europe… I had such a blast a few years ago in Southern Spain (Costa Blanca around Alicante) with a little Smart ForTwo from Sixt.

autodromo internacional algarve maxi 32h

I love everything about this trip so far. Such excellent reviews about Faro and Portimão. I’ve been spoiled with Iberian food here in NJ with a large Portuguese population in the Ironbound area of Newark, but the authentic stuff I really can’t wait to try firsthand.

I am also extremely happy with the organizers that have been more than welcoming so far. That my friends is crucial in organizing events as a travelling marshal. When there’s no resistance from a local ASN or the organizing body, and instead they encourage you to come, is a fantastic experience. I’m very thankful. Obrigado!

As far as the race goes, I’m really eager to see the HTP Mercedes SLS dominate. But there will be some other gems on display also. Maybe not the caliber of the field as one would see in the European Le Mans Series, Blancpain Endurance or Sprint Series or GT Open, but still. The CN prototype class has four manufacturers represented. Wolf and Radical I have already seen race in Abu Dhabi but the Tatuus and Norma will be a new sight for me. The widebody European V6 Cup cars like the Renault Clio, Seat Supercopa and GC V6 Silueta (which looks like a slammed VW Rabbit) will be awesome to watch. I’m really excited!

maxi endurance viper acr

The one car I have little optimism for is this older model Viper ACR. As much as I’m an SRT fan and all, and seeing how this is the Press Car for the event, I have my doubts it will actually last the 32 hours. I will be very pleasantly surprised to see it finish.

Photo credit Maxi Endurance: maxiendurance.com/info-equipos/entry-list/

Maxi Endurance 32h in Portimão, Portugal

The United States Grand Prix was a letdown. In a way it was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I knew based on my post assignment it wasn’t going to be a thrilling event, and being there only proved the inevitable boredom. But I refuse to end my marshaling season on a sour note. So I’m planning a trip all the way to the Guinness Book of World Records… The longest endurance race in the world. No, not the Maxi 48h advertised in the photo above I took during the Bathurst 12h race a few years ago. But an event put together by the same organizers.

At this point I haven’t booked anything yet, but pieces are slowly starting to fall into their places. Like a frequent flyer mileage redemption with AA. There’s no better time to travel to Europe than the off season. Low mileage redemption, great availability and I got to put away a ton of miles this year from not traveling as much as I used to. So it’s a win win. Similarly I expect the car rental to be a reasonable deal, especially since Faro, Portugal is a busy tourist destination in the summer and probably has a lot of capacity to fill in the winter.

maxi endurance 32hMaxi Endurance 32h: http://www.maxiendurance.com/

But back to the event. A facebook post from John Dagys from Sportscar365 promoting the Maxi Endurance 32h event at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal, caught my eye. The dates seem to work in early December. The track seems spectacular with a number of the top world events past and present having raced there including F1 pre-season testing, SBK Superbikes, various European GT series and even Le Mans a few years back. There is also an intriguing comparison of Algarve to track’s like Nurburgring and Spa-Francochamps. This only means I will not be disappointed.

htp motorsportHTP Motorsport: http://www.htpmotorsport.de/

Similarly, the entries shouldn’t disappoint. HTP Motorsport is entering their amazing Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 which won Bathurst 12h earlier this year. There will be Porsche 911 GT3’s, Ginettas, Aston Martin GT4’s, Seat Supercopas, Renauld Clios mixed with Radicals in the CN prototype class, plenty of blue flag opportunities and all over a period of 32 hours. Not to mention having ridiculously faster GT’s compared to some Prototypes, which will be much faster than some Touring cars. Exciting and certainly very challenging to flag!

The most surprising thing so far, just hours after reaching out to inquire about the event I got a warm welcome from the organizers. Frankly, after getting rejected for Japan and Macau I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised to add the thirteenth country to my marshaling career, and hopefully learn something new in Algarve.

Please stay tuned as I go through this new adventure and share my experience post-race.

Official Links:

Autódromo Internacional do Algarve www.autodromodoalgarve.com

Algarve Circuit on Facebook f/Autodromo.Internacional.do.Algarve

Portimão Circuit on Twitter @AIAPortimao t/AIAPortimao

Maxi Endurance 32h maxiendurance.com

Maxi Endurance 32h on Facebook f/maxiendurance32