Portugal hoping to attract F1 to Algarve circuit

Portugal hopes a new 200 million euro (149 million pound) circuit being built in the Algarve tourist region can bring Formula One back to the country.

Circuit director Paulo Pinheiro told Reuters on Monday that one F1 team had already booked the 4.7 km track in the south of Portugal for a test next January and there were talks in progress with others.

The Algarve International Circuit has been certified by the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) and is expected to be ready by the end of October.

It is already due to host the final round of the Superbike world championship in November.

"The Government will do its best for Portugal to become part of the world's main championships," said Deputy Sports Minister Laurentino Dias.

"This circuit is prepared to host a range of motor races, from the most modest to Formula One."

Portugal was dropped from the Formula One calendar in 1997 due to safety problems at Estoril, where the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna took his first Grand Prix victory in heavy rain in 1985.

There were also grands prix held in Oporto and at Monsanto near Lisbon between 1958 and 1960.

The new complex covers 300 hectares of land between the port city of Portimao and the hills of Monchique, with a capacity for up to 100,000 spectators including a VIP tower with 15,000 seats.

It includes a soccer field, a luxury hotel and residential apartments.

Economy Minister Manuel Pinho said Portugal was interested in reviving the grand prix as part of efforts to bring much-needed private investment to the country's sluggish economy.

Neighbouring Spain has two grands prix this year, one in Barcelona and the other in Valencia, with Formula One teams also testing at Jerez in the south.

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