Wednesday 21 December 2011

Lost Track: Circuits of the Yore VIII - Boavista Portuguese Grand Prix

Well past the Christmas and into the new year, the season of 2003-04 was not going the way  Manchester United hoped for. Arsenal were continuing their unbeaten streak in the Premiership and then came knock out stages of Champion’s League.  United’s record at  Champion’s League looked good until the last-minute tackle by Phil Neville (which was so silly and needless), free-kick by Costinha, half-hearted save by Tim Howard and the goal, the elusive away goal powered Porto to quarterfinals and they went on to win the Champion’s League.
Jose Mourinho became a legend and very soon became the toast of European football, known as one of the ‘thinkers’ of the present day football. That was his time at Porto. 2004 apart  I can recall from my interest in Champion’s League winners history,  Porto had also won the 1986-87 Champion’s League. Football and Porto have a long history.
In search of more sporting history at this fanatic city in North of Portugal, I found Oporto (other name for Porto) hosts alternatively (Lisbon and Porto) an annual cricket tournament that awards the Kendall Cup to the teams formed by the representatives from Lisbon and Porto. The tournament traces its history back to 1861 and it became a regular event in 1920 when the man himself Mr. A.C Kendall presented the trophy in memory of Lt. Rawes, a WWI martyr who lived and played cricket in Portugal. Barring the 5 years hiatus during WWII, this tournament has been a regular to this present day.

Alongside cricket, I also managed to dug up the fact of Oporto being the first Portugal city to host a F1 race. In the eight part of the ‘Lost Track’ series I put forward my views based on what I have read on races that took place in Boa vista circuit in Porto.
Since its start, F1 World Championships has attracted many cities across Europe; like every other European country even Portugal wasn’t far behind. Boa vista circuit (Porto) and Monsanto circuit (near Lisbon) were the early players under the banner of Portuguese Grand Prix welcoming many sports car competitions in the 1950’s. Although, the races were unofficial it did generate a lot of interest and paved the way to host the inaugural F1 Portugal Grand Prix in the year 1958 at Boa vista. The circuit included the famous ‘Esplanade do Rio de Janerio’, a harbor front in Porto continued along the Avenue of Boa vista, narrow twisting roads on small neighborhoods before reaching the start-finish line.

Pole and the race belonged to the Brit driver Moss; his fellow country man and title rival for 1958 Mike Hawthorn came in second. The race was not just about Moss and his drive but the other side of it, the humane side and the sportsmanship he displayed. During the course of the race, Hawthorn had an off-road excursion disrupting the normal traffic (since the track featured roads connecting tram lines, small roads and cobble stoned roads) which prompted the race officials to disqualify from his second place. Moss persuaded the officials to not take such an action and in the end Mike Hawthorn kept his second place and more importantly the 6 points. At the end of the season, Mike Hawthorn ended up winning the championships by a mere one point over Moss.
Sir Stirling Moss is arguably considered the best driver never to have won the World Championships and such was his passion for racing that, he took it seriously, was ruthless in his driving but fair when it came to approaching the sport in general.  
After the inaugural edition at Porto, it was the turn of Monsanto Park at Lisbon to host the second edition of Portuguese Grand Prix. The race returned to Boa vista in 1960 where Jack Brabham, the reigning World Champion won the race in his Cooper-Climax, helped by many retirements owing to engine failures and few accidents.
The 1960 race was the last time a F1 race was held at Boa vista. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix discontinued after 1960 till its revival in 1984 at Estoril. 
The revival of Boa vista track happened in the year 2005 and since then it has hosted auto-shows, the FIA WTCC Race of Portugal (2007, 2009 and 2011) which includes racing programs such as International Formula Master (formerly Formula Super 2000) and other Portuguese national competitions. 

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