Many circuits have come to and gone from the international stage over the years, and Estoril is one of them. The former home of the Portuguese Grand Prix is even a relatively rare sight in sim racing.
These days, the Portuguese Grand Prix in Formula One mostly makes fans think of the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, or Portimão after the town it is close to. Appearing on the calendar in both 2020 and 2021, the modern venue is popular for its enormous elevation change and flowing layout. The event itself goes back much further, though.
First held in 1951, the Portguese Grand Prix became part of the Formula One calendar in 1958. However, it would only last until 1960, with two races in Boavista, and one at Monsanto in 1959. F1 would not return to Portugal for 24 years after those three events, won by Stirling Moss (1958 and 1959) and Jack Brabham (1960).
Estoril Enters With A Title Decider
Enter Estoril: Opened in 1972, the Circuito first appeared on the F1 calendar in 1984. To this day, it is the venue that hosted the Portuguese Grand Prix more often than any other. In fact, it would be a stop on the F1 calendar all the way until 1996.
In its first season, the track already saw the title being decided, with Niki Lauda taking the crown just half a point ahead of Alain Prost – a result of the shortened, rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix of that year. Having been the season finale in 1984, the Portuguese Grand Prix was moved to April for 1985. It then was moved again, this time to September, where it would stay until the end of its F1 tenure.
The 1985 contest was yet another memorable contest, held in rainy conditions that worsened as the race went on. None other than Ayrton Senna took his first F1 victory that day, having led every lap along the way.
Sweeping Corners Make Way For Slower Turns
Looking at the original layout of Estoril, it is easy to see why the race became a popular event. Fast, flowing corners made for an exciting lap, including the ultra-fast Parabolica. The right-hander proved to be a thrilling end to the lap. A point that Jacques Villeneuve proved impressively in 1996, when he dared to go around the outside of Michael Schumacher – and succeded.
Similarly, turns 1 and 2 (simply named Curva 1 and Curva 2) were rather fast, as was the Tanque corner. This uphill right did not have any notable run-off, and hitting the inside curb there could end a driver’s day in the blink of an eye. After the fatal 1994 San Marino Grand Prix accidents, this was replaced by the extemely tight Gancho chicane, originally built in 1993 as a track variant for motorcycle racing.
This cumbersome chicane is still in place to this day. More modifications were carried out after F1 had left for good, with Gancho being widened. Also, Curva 1 and Curva 2 were made significantly slower, and Parabólica – now named in honor of Ayrton Senna – was slightly tightened.
Estoril: Not On Many Radars Anymore
It might be these changes that are the root cause of Estoril being almost forgotten today. Sure, the FIA GT series, World Touring Car Championship, DTM, World Series by Renault and MotoGP raced there as the world headed into the new millenium. But today, high-profile events are hardly held at the track. When Portimão opened in 2008, it replaced Estoril as the premier racing circuit in Portugal.
As a result, Estoril has slipped of many racers’ radars, including sim racers. Those who religiously played GTR2 (and GTR Evolution) or Race07 will still remember it, as it was part of the 2003 FIA GT Championship included in the game. But looking at modern sims, the track is hardly featured anywhere as first-party content. The only exception is Automobilista 2.
Looking for “Estoril” in the track list will not get you far, however – there is no such entry. The same holds true for Suzuka and Monaco, which are listed as “Kansai” and “Azure Circuit”, respectively. In that same vein, Estoril just has a different name, in this case “Cascais” after a nearby coastal town.
The modern version may lack some of the flow of the original layout, but still lends itself well to GT racing or slower classes. However, the real fun at “Cascais” comes for owners of the Historical Track Pack Pt. 1 DLC. The pack adds the 1988 version of Estoril alongside Jerez 1988 and Bathurst 1983.
AMS2: Modern & Classic Estoril
Of course this means that a multitude of 1980s and early 1990s F1 cars in AMS2 will feel right at home at the track. Taking the Group C vehicles in the title for a spin at classic Estoril is also a good time, as the flow of the track compliments these cars well. They are far from the only enjoyable classes to race at the circuit, though.
Interestingly, Estoril mods are relatively rare. There is a 1988 version rooted in rFactor for Assetto Corsa on RaceDepartment, but not the modern layout – save for a beta version from 2014. Googling may find you a modern version, though. The RD download section does not have any version for rFactor 2, nor for the first Automobilista. A 1986 version can be found as part of a track pack for that season on the rFactor 2 workshop on Steam.
Still, giving the track a spin if you get the opportunity should be a good idea for any sim racer. The older version in particular with its fast corners and lack of run-off is a thrilling ride. Hit one of the tall curbs on the inside of a corner and you might meet the guardrail (yes, actual armco) faster than you might think. But getting it right is a proper rush.
What are your thoughts on Estoril? Do you want to see it in more modern sims? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!