We were delighted when it was announced the event at Portimão was here to stay! Beautiful destination, lovely friendly country. The circuit is gorgeous - spring for the Tower VIP with stunning views. This has to be on your "must visit" list!
What a GREAT venue to open the MotoGP 2023 season!
Perfect weather in a beautiful environment, at one of the best tracks in the sport, Portimao is a stunner.
Indeed, the event was so popular we sold out of our first two packages by early January and added a third -- and happy we did as the new 4* Superior hotel we used at the beach in Portimao rivalled the boutique 5* and our much loved 4* resort. So we were happy to bring a group of 70 packaged guests on tour for the inaugural 2023 round!
Thursday our traditional 'happy hour' was in two locations : a classic Irish pub in the vibrant heart of Portimao; and the poolside bar of Vitor's plaza. The Vitor's guests were further honoured by the appearance of our newly supported Red Bull Rookie rider Eddie O'Shea from England.
We got underway properly Friday, meeting our Team Guests for the first time. Our partner teams Gresini MotoGP and VisionTrack Moto3 using their updated hospitality facilities for the first time in 2023. Friday is the best time to utilise the track access fro both teams - most clients got an opportunity to visit the trackside during a session to see the action up close!
However the star of the weekend turned out to be the new VIP Tower. We have used this facility for Superbikes and described it as the best view of any circuit. However in SBK it is merely a great viewing platform; in MotoGP for the first time it was offered as a full VIP facility. And it was AWESOME! Reserved seats and tables, superb food, beer & wine, great service and the aforementioned views make this IMHO the best MotoGP hospitality we have experienced in 20 years! Some customers even paired this with our Moto3 Team experience -- the super convenient tunnel connecting the tower to the paddock made this a perfect combination! If you come back to Portimao this is where you want to book!
Friday night we hosted our opening dinner. With 70 people and several guest speakers we took over a local rural restaurant for the perfect setting. Our first guest was for MotoGP and SBK rider Eugene Laverty. It turns out Eugene's new home is about 100m from the restaurant! Eugene shared some of his new experiences in managing a SBK team, and of course we were able reminisce about the od days and the changes MotoGP and SBK have seen in the past 15 years (since we have known Eugene. We also sponsored him in his last two years in MotoGP). As if one Irishman wasn't enough, he was joined by veteran journalist Simon Patterson who shared his blarney with the group! Sion is a wonderful speaker as he is unafraid to tell it like it is --- and is no stranger to controversy! We loved it! (But can't report his comments here! :-)
We closed the night with an auction of special merchandise in benefit of Two Wheels for Life our partner charity, raising about €2000 to help them in their quest to provide moto-based health care in remote Africa.
The less said about our beer bill the better...
Saturday was a perfect day, and the new schedule threw a spanner into our usual way of doing things -- the MotoGP qualifiers happened while the VIPs were queued up for nearly 45 minutes waiting for the pit lane walk! We have reported the problems to Dorna and hope they wil be resolved in the future.
And then the sprint race happened... It has to be said that we have been pretty much against the sprint race since it was announced -- seeing it as an unneeded risk and a disruption to the orderly progress to the climatic Sunday race. Losing the FP4 session makes it quite difficult and stressful for teams and riders. However the race itself was brilliant -- great viewing from the tower and superb action. Unfortunately 5 crashes, one leaving Basianini out of the Sunday race, showed the downside to the sprints. We really hope they can manage to keep these exciting events without the collateral damage in the future.
Saturday evening was a free evening for most guests -- Portimao was rocking! Many of our team guests remained at the track for our MotoGP night. We featured the 'returned from retiral' veteran journalist Manuel Pecino who helped us understand some of the dynamics at play this weekend. Dinners at Gresini and LCR Honda were superb as usual. Lucio Cecchinello, the founder and boss of LCR Honda was gracious enough to join us briefly!
Sunday was a perfect day both on and off track. Super exciting to see how the riders were shaking out for the new season. In MotoGP Pecco made it a double after winning the sprint race and the main GP; but very happy to see Vinales come back to the front of the pack and on the podium and VR46 showing very strong putting Marco Bezzechi 3rd on the podium after his disappointing crash in the sprint race.
IN Moto2, Acosta proved what everyone was expecting, winning the race; but for us our hero was Czech Filip Salac. Taking his first Pole Position, and riding for our team Gresini, the only Czech remaining in the sport was looking very strong taking 4th. Moto3 was the usual axle-to-axle action, frequently the most thrilling race of the weekend.
Of course even it was blown away by the excitement of both Red Bull Rookies races! These kids seem to be made of rubber... Sadly Eddie crashed out of Race 1; and had to retire owing to injuries in Race 2; but we expect him to bounce back. Top marks to our other supported rider South African Roche Moodley, who qualified P2, bagging 8 points in race 1; but unfortunately rashed while leading Race 2. We are expecting great things from him this year!
Sunday closed with our usual ad-hoc group dinners: one in Vitor's fueled by much beer! and a small group in the wilds of Portimao.
This has to be one of our favourite venues in MotoGP -- come back next year! And also consider the Superbike in October! Always our biggest SBK!
Picture gallery - Grand Prix of Portugal 2023
See our photos of the event on Flickr here
Or check out ALL of our past event galleries here