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