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Portugal was back in the WTCC in 2015 at a circuit full of history and intrigue. Racing has been held around the hillside roads of Vila Real since 1931, when Gaspar Sameiro and Ercilio Barbosa conquered the original 7.150-kilometre course in a Ford Model A. Since then races have been run on and off, while the WTCC’s arrival signalled Vila Real’s first world championship meeting. The 4.755-kilometre layout used was a challenging blend of turns, climbs and descents. While a handful of chicanes were installed for safety reasons, the spectacle remained with speeds nearing 240kph on the final downhill section.
1: Prior to the championship’s return to Portugal in 2015, the last WTCC races held in the country were at the Circuito da Boavista in Porto two years prior, with Chevrolet drivers Yvan Muller and James Nash winning.
2: Vila Real played host to F3 single-seaters in the 1960s before sportscar racing came to the fore. Chris Craft and David Piper won a six-hour event in 1969 driving a Porsche 908.
3: During the 1980s touring car racing thrived at the circuit before a fatal accident in 1991 forced the authorities to intervene due to concerns over safety. Racing resumed on a shortened layout in 2007, with a revival meeting attended by Stirling Moss.
4: Located in the north of Portugal, Vila Real’s population has more than doubled in recent years – from 24,481 people in 2001 to 51,850 in 2011.
5: Although Portuguese WTCC star Tiago Monteiro was born in nearby Porto, he had never raced at Vila Real prior to 2015 but likened the street track it to a cross between Macau and Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Name: Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Location: Av. Carvalho Araújo 7, 5000-651 Vila Real
Length: 4.775 kilometres
Lap record (qualifying): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée) 1m58.515s (144.4kph), 11/07/15
Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 2m00.873s (141.6kph), 12/07/15
WTCC RACE OF PORTUGAL WINNERS
2015: Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée)
2013: R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: James Nash (Chevrolet Cruze)
2012: R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze)
2011: R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Rob Huff (Chevrolet Cruze)
2010: R1: Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León); R2: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León)
2009: R1: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
2008: R1: Rickard Rydell (SEAT León); R2: Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León)
2007: R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lancetti); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
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