We continue to be impressed by the variety, and quality, of events that take place in Porto. Last week, we had two world-class motorsports events taking place in the streets of Porto. First, we had the City Prologue section of the Extreme XL Lagares enduro competition and then the Porto Street Stage of the World Rally Championships. Amazing stuff!
Extreme XL Lagares Motorcycle Enduro
The Extreme XL Lagares has a reputation for being the most demanding hard-enduro race in the world. This year, it became part of the new World Enduro Super Series (WESS) – ‘a championship that brings together a variety of formats, blending Hard Enduro with the classic Enduro, beach racing and cross-country events.’ Each of the seven events takes place in a different country, starting with Portugal and then moving to Austria, France, Romania, Poland, Sweden, Netherlands.
The Porto City Prologue was therefore the opening event of both the Extreme XL Lagares and the World Enduro Super Series. The Prologue course includes obstacles along the Ribeira river front as well as a course around the city streets – and some steep steps. We could obviously only view the event from one place, so we opted for a spot on the steps that rise from the riverfront and pass underneath the Dom Luis Bridge (where several spectators gathered to watch from above)
But we wanted to be down on the ground and close to the action. One half of the steep steps was kept clear for the racers, whilst spectators gathered on the other half – separated in places by only a length of plastic tape! We got there an hour before the start and were able to get a nice view-point on a balcony next to the steps.
The riders competed in two groups. First the XL/Veterans and then the Experts, with each rider setting off at 30-second intervals on a time-trial basis. There was a clear difference in skill level between the two groups, as the expert riders were noticeably faster getting up the steps.
A few of the riders struggled with the 90-degree bend, immediately followed by a steep set of steps, but there were no serious incidents on the stretch that we were watching. Once the riders has negotiated that first part of the steps, they mostly managed the rest fairly easily. But I can see why the ‘Hobby’ level course did not include the steps – it’s not as easy as the pros make it look. And the Jonny Walker video link further down shows how extreme the entire course is.
We enjoyed watching the riders tackle the steps. Next year, we may go to the riverfront and watch them tackle the obstacles. The entire course is amazing – no wonder it’s called extreme. Here is a riders-eye view of the course, as Jonny Walker rides the final segment of the City Prologue when the five pro riders with the fastest times race the course again. Jonny Walker Video
I also hope to see more of the Lagares XL event next year. The enduro race is held in Lagares, a short drive from Porto, and it looks to be a very exciting event. Here’s a video of this year’s enduro section.
World Rally Championship – Porto Street Stage
The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship is spread over 13 events, starting in Monte Carlo in January and ending in Australia in November. The Rally de Portugal was the 6th stage and took place between 17 – 20 May. On Friday 18th May, the rally featured a street stage around the streets of Porto, with each car having to complete two runs over the 1.95km circuit around Avenida dos Aliados.
Aliados had been transformed for the event, with spectator bleachers erected around the course as well as a pedestrian bridge. The circuit had a ramp-jump and a couple of areas where the cars had to perform 360-degree circles. It was a great opportunity to get to see the rally cars without having to leave town. Whilst many paid for a €20 seat on the bleachers, others watched from nearby buildings and streets. Some even climbed trees.
Prior to the competitive stage, we got to see several classic rally cars drive around the circuit. These included an old Ford Cortina, Opel and Porsche.
Our seats were in front of the ramp jump, so we got to see the rally cars go airborne (slightly). There was also a large screen so that we could see the cars as they negotiated the rest of the course.
Here is a short video clip of a classic Porsche on the course.
Perhaps the most amazing sight of the afternoon was watching the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi car #10, driven by Kris Meeke (UK) and navigated by Paul Nagle (Ireland), as it navigated the course without a tyre on one of its back wheels. The car had sustained heavy damage, apparently from a crash on a stage earlier in the day. There were sparks flying from the wheel as it spun on the stone streets, but the car finished both legs of the circuit.
Unfortunately, Meeke had a serious crash in a later stage, wrecking the Citroen and being air-lifted to hospital for checks to a back injury. This video link shows Meeke’s run in the Street Stage as well as his later crash.
Here some of my photos from the Street Stage:
It was quite a treat to be able to see parts of these two events within the span of a week. We’re loving life in Porto!