The venues just keep on lining up for grands prix. After bringing you news of Singapore's impending bid and progress on India's plans, the next contender is Portugal, which had a grand prix at Estoril from 1984 to 1997 but withdrew from the F1 calendar after that due to prohibitively high costs to get the track up to spec. Rather than sinking more money into an old track, the coastal town of Portimao is moving ahead with plans to build a brand new facility.
The project has a reported budget of a staggering $250 million and includes a five-star hotel, apartment complex and trackside technology center in addition to the track itself and other supporting facilities. Parkalgar, a private contractor, is getting support from local and national governments who see the project as a priority for the Portuguese tourism industry and who are granting the contractors a 10-year tax break together with low rental fees for the 800 acres of land dedicated for the facility. Parkalgar aims to finish the facility by September 2008, after which they intend to bid for a Formula One grand prix.
The bid for a Portuguese Grand Prix is a bit of an uphill battle, set against the context of a general decrease in the number of European races. Germany and Italy have each had a race cut from the calendar; Belgium is alternating every other year; even France and England might have to alternate; while nearby Spain is bidding for a second race. It might be a tough sell with an already overcrowded race schedule, but it may just come down to how much they can afford to pay Bernie Ecclestone, who as always holds the lucrative commercial rights to the series.