Le Mans Ultimate: Portimao Circuit Guide

The definitive track guide for Portimao in Le Mans Ultimate.

The Portimão Circuit is situated in the Algarve region of Portugal, near the town of Portimão. It’s located approximately 280 kilometers south of the capital city, Lisbon.

  • Construction: The circuit was designed by Ricardo Pina, Arquitectos and was built in 2008. It was constructed in response to Portugal’s desire to host international motorsport events, particularly Formula 1 and MotoGP.
  • Layout: The track features a challenging layout with 15 turns. It’s known for its undulating terrain, which includes significant elevation changes, and its mix of fast and technical sections.
  • Length: The track has a total length of approximately 4.684 kilometers (2.915 miles).
  • Facilities: The Portimão Circuit boasts modern facilities, including a pit complex, grandstands, hospitality suites, and media centers, designed to accommodate large-scale motorsport events.
  • Events: The circuit has hosted various national and international motorsport events since its opening. These include rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), Superbike World Championship (WSBK), European Le Mans Series (ELMS), and various domestic racing series.
  • Formula 1 Testing: The Portimão Circuit gained international attention in 2020 when it was added to the revised Formula 1 calendar as a venue for the Portuguese Grand Prix. Prior to the race, several Formula 1 teams conducted testing at the circuit to familiarise themselves with the track.
  • 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix: The Portuguese Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar in October 2020 after a 24-year absence. The race was won by Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
  • MotoGP Testing: In addition to Formula 1, the circuit has also hosted testing sessions for MotoGP teams. These sessions are crucial for teams and riders to evaluate their performance and make necessary adjustments ahead of the racing season.
  • Challenges: The Portimão Circuit is known for its technical challenges, particularly its blind corners and dramatic elevation changes. This makes it a favorite among drivers and riders who enjoy a demanding and thrilling racing experience.
  • Overall, the Portimão Circuit has quickly established itself as a prominent venue in international motorsport, attracting top-tier events and showcasing the beauty and excitement of racing in the Algarve region of Portugal.

Turn 1 (Primeira),2 and 3 (Lagos)

Turn 1 is a medium speed right hander and is the start of a sequence of right hand turns that follow.

Starting the lap off, position the car to the left as you head downhill towards T1. Looking ahead, spot your braking marker just before the 100m brake board. There’s a solid white line that runs from the armco barrier to the edge of the curbing on the left. Brake roughly a car length before this line. From 6th gear brake into the corner and shift down to 3rd. Aim just behind the sausage curb and aim to come as close as you can without actually hitting it. Also avoid carrying too much speed into the apex as the exit is tighter than you think and with too much speed you will understeer off and exceed track limits. The car will get unloaded as you float the inside curbing. Avoid getting on the power until the car is loaded up again and you have maximum grip. 

As for the track limits on the exit, keep at least your right hand side wheels on the red and white curbing. 

T1 exit feeds into the flatout right hand kink of T2. Don’t aim to apex the curbing of T2. Rather position more in the middle of the road as you want to open up the angle for T3 entry.

T2 feeds into the very tight, 1st gear right hand turn 3. The braking point for T3 is the halfway point between T2 and T3 or as your car gets close to the outside red and white curbing. Brake down to first gear and time your shift to keep the car stable. Carrying too much speed into the apex can cause the car to over rotate so be aware of this. Again aim as close to the sausage curb as possible without actually touching it. Be smooth with your throttle input as the car needs to settle after climbing the inside curb. Any aggressive inputs will cost you time.

Turn 4

A flatout uphill left hander which leads onto a straight and a possible overtaking opportunity.

From the exit of T3, you need to bring the car back over to the right to open up the entry. Use the solid white line across the track as a reference of when you need to be turning in. Aim to get your inside wheels over the red and white curbing. The quick direction change while flatout can cause the car to step out mid corner so be aware of that and keep your steering inputs smooth. Especially as the car goes over the crest of the corner.

Open up the steering and aim to use as much of the exit curbing as possible to maximise your speed down the following straight. Be mindful to keep your left hand side tires on at least the red and white curbing. Going past this will invalidate your lap.

Turn 5 (Torre Vip)

Turn 5 is a tight left hand hairpin which is slightly cambered at the apex. It’s a great spot for overtakes when racing.

Heading down the straight, spot your braking marker which is the 100m board on the fencing to the right. At high speed you’ll want to brake hard initially to maximise the braking performance of the car. Approaching the apex be sure to use trail braking to avoid a lock up and aim the car tight to the inside curb. The entry is downhill and the corner becomes cambered so it’s not crucial to use the inside curb for more rotation as the corner gives that to you naturally. Shift down to 1st gear to get the drive out the tight corner.

At the apex make sure the car is straightened as much as possible as you progressively get back on the throttle. Use the exit curbing and keep at least 2 wheels on the red and white curb.

Turn 6

Easily flatout left hander turn which is more of a kink. Make sure to not drift wide on the exit as you need to stay as far left as possible to open the entry of T7.

Turn 7 and 8 (Samsung)

Turn 7 is a fast right hander that feeds into the entry up Turn 8 which is an uphill right hand open hairpin.

Entering T7 stay left and look for the solid white line that crosses the track. Start to turn in just before the white line and aim to start braking just after the white line. Brake lightly as you will be turning and keep the car in the same gear. Slow down the car just enough and aim to use the inside red and white curbing. Just after the apex curb get back on the power to keep your momentum up.

As you pass the fast apex and get back on the power immediately you should be spotting your braking marker for the next corner. The reference to use here is again a white solid line that is found on the outside of the curbs to the left. It’s a tricky braking area as you’ll be turning the entire time. Braking too hard will induce a lockup so be wary of this. To keep the car stable try to shift down to 2nd gear before cranking on the steering lock into the corner. Delaying your downshifts can cause the rear to step out.

The aim for T8 is to slow the car down to the perfect entry speed while taking a mid corner apex. On entry keep your steering inputs very smooth and balanced. With too much entry speed and sharp movements on the steering you will cause the car to over rotate and oversteer. Trail brake into the apex and as you pass it slowly find the throttle again. Due to the elevation and camber changes it’s very important to balance your throttle and steering inputs on exit. This will allow you to maximise traction out the corner in what is a very tricky traction zone area that can quickly cause the car to snap into oversteer. You can carry your speed to the outside of the track as you open the steering but keep at least 2 wheels on the red and white curbing.

Turn 9 (Craig Jones)

A flatout undulating left hander taken in 5th gear. 

As you come over the crest exiting T8, come back over to the right hand side to open up the entry for T9. AFrom the right hand side, lookout for the white line to the right of the outside curbing. Just before you reach the white line, start to turn in and keep your steering smooth. Aim to use the inside read and white curbing. 

Keep in mind not to run out wide as you’ll want to position the car over to the left to open the entry of Turns 10 and 11.

Turn 10 (Portimao) and 11

The approach to Turns 10 and 11 is tricky as the corners are completely blind for the double right hander which is essentially one right hand corner. The entry is blind due to the steep climb up into the braking zone. 

Heading up the hill, spot your braking marker which is the marshall post to the far left. Brake when alongside or slightly before depending on the car you are driving. With the car to the middle left of the track start to slightly turn in as you brake at the marker mentioned above. Again watch that you don’t brake too hard which will cause a lock up as you come over the crest. Shift down to 2nd and be more patient here with your downshifts.

Follow the contour of the track until you finally see the apex of the corner which is the very last right hand part of the turn. Aim to get onto the red and white curbing but be careful not to cut it completely. At the apex you’ll want to be at around 50% throttle as you power out the tight right hander. The exit traction zone is challenging as the track falls away. Balance your throttle with your steering inputs as you let the car run wide onto the exit curb. The exit is very wide so track limits shouldn’t be an issue.

Turn 12 and 13

Bring the car back over to the middle of the track for a high speed flatout left hander which starts to climb uphill. Take a mid to late apex and aim to drift the car back over to the right for the braking zone of Turn 13.

The braking zone for T13 is tough as there are no real markers that are spot on. The best is to look for the service road on the grass to the left hand side. Start to brake on the right hand side of the track as that service road is about to disappear from your windscreen. Brake and shift down 2 gears before turning in to aim for a late apex. Delay the last downshift to 1st just as you are about to reach the curbing. Aim to come close to the inside curbing but take note that the curbing here is super bumpy and can cause the car to oversteer or lose traction. If 2nd gear feels more comfortable without compromising time on exit then use that. Ease back onto the throttle and open up the steering to use what is a very wide exit area. 

Turn 14 (Sagres)

A downhill U-shaped right hander which feeds into the last corner. 

On the approach, aim to get the car back over to the left to open the entry. Look for where the grass ends on the left hand side, this will be your braking marker. The way you position and introduce the car is important. Get the car to face the corner just before you start to brake and aim for an early apex. Shift down to 2nd gear and keep the car tight to the inside curb. Patience is key in the transitioning phase from braking to accelerating. The car will understeer if you carry too much speed in and also if you try to accelerate too early.

As a guide use the dark rubber lines on the track as a reference of where to be, at all times only have your outside wheels on the rubber. Be progressive on the throttle as you don’t want to break traction. When the car is hooked up you can see the exit opening get to full throttle and open the steering to the red and white exit curbing.

Turn 15 (Galp)

The final corner is a fast undulating right hander that feeds onto the start/finish straight.

From the exit of Turn 14, stay wide to open up the entry. The sim allows you to run your outside wheels on the green astro surface as long as you keep 2 wheels on the curbing. This helps you gain a better entry angle for the upcoming fast right hander.

Turn in about a car length before the red and white curbing ends and aim for the inside curbing. Shift up to 5th gear and aim to cut the inside curbing a little to help straighten the corner. A slight lift off the throttle here will help to not scrub on the exit and definitely will help with tyre wear as this circuit is super aggressive on the tyre wear. 

Get back to full throttle when you know you can comfortably stay within track limits on the exit without having to induce more steering angle to stay on track. Use the red and white curbing on the exit but be aware to keep at least 2 wheels on the curb.

Keep it pinned as you run back up the hill and down to the finish line which is just before the pit wall ends giving you a decent run to the line from the last corner.

And with that, it brings an end to the flowing and undulating circuit of Portimao.

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