The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve has been awarded Grade 1 certification by the FIA, as confirmed recently by the circuit itself. The news means that the Portuguese circuit, which is set to host the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO for the fourth year in a row on 12-14 June, is now eligible to accommodate Formula 1 in an official capacity, be it as part of the official race calendar or as a venue for testing.
Management at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve submitted an official application last year, and following an inspection by the late Charlie Whiting and World Endurance Championship race director Eduadro Freitas, was given approval. Confirmation of Grade 1 homologation, the highest certification awarded by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and is held by less than 50 circuits worldwide, was received last week “with great pride”, as stated by Paulo Pinheiro, CEO of Parkalgar that owns AIA.
Though full details have not been disclosed, Pinheiro confirmed to the Lusa News Agency in Portugal that "the modifications required by the FIA have been made and we have received the highest level of certification from the federation.”
It is understood that the new Grade 1 homologation covers all four configurations of the AIA, most notably the full 4.684km Grand Prix layout and its near-kilometre long start-finish straight.
It is also believed, though not yet confirmed, that management at the AIA has signed a confidentiality clause with a stable within F1 to conduct private testing during the off-season, and in the future, could seek to host F1 winter testing, traditionally conducted at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Northern Spain.
"It is one of the possibilities," Pinheiro continued. "Let's see how the pandemic evolves.”
Now 12 years old, work first began at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in early 2008, after plans for both the circuit and the Algarve Motorsport Park complex – including the Race Resort hotel and apartments, technology park and VIP tower – were finalized by Ricardo Pina Arquitetos. Construction was completed in just seven months, and that winter, having been granted a Grade 1-T licence by the FIA, AIA hosted an F1 test session for McLaren and Honda, with Toyota also arriving the following January.
In August 2017, the AIA hosted the first ever Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, making it the 13th different venue to host an official CREVENTIC endurance event. Alongside the Dubai Autodrome and Circuit of the Americas, the AIA also formed the European leg of the first ever 24H SERIES Continents championship in 2017, and since 2018, has shared that accolade with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The circuit has also proven a popular test bed for manufacturers. In 2018, Manthey Racing entered the new ‘992’ generation Porsche GT3 R in its first race at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, stunning the paddock by finishing 2nd overall. One year later, the new generation Mercedes-AMG GT3 ‘Evo’ also made its competitive debut, collecting 6th at the flag after an impressive run.
Pending further global developments, this year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO is scheduled to take place on 12-14 June for the fourth straight year at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, and will welcome competitors from both the ‘GT’ and ‘TCE’ divisions. Having won the first three iterations of the event outright, can anybody finally break the streak of reigning 24H SERIES Europe GT Teams’ champion, Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha?
*Images from last year’s Hankook 24H PORTIMAO courtesy of Petr Frýba.