The FIA World Touring Car Cup races in Portugal have been moved to Estoril for the 2021 season, although promoter Eurosport Events has signed a new three-year deal to return to the streets of Vila Real from 2022.
It marks the second consecutive year in which racing cannot take place on the streets of Vila Real due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Restrictions on mass gatherings in Portugal mean that holding the event in Vila Real is not possible next month.
However, the date for the event remains unchanged on June 26 – 27.
Estoril last hosted World Touring Cars back in 2008, and in recent years it also hosted the TCR International Series (not promoted by Eurosport) in 2016.
Eurosport Events has a long relationship with Estoril, with the venue playing host to the 12 Hours of Estoril, a round of the FIM Endurance World Championship for motorbikes.
The change of venues has been approved by the FIA and FPAK, the Portuguese ASN.
“The priority was always to maintain WTCR Race of Portugal on the 2021 calendar,” said Head of Eurosport Events, François Ribeiro.
“While it’s a great shame that we won’t enjoy Vila Real’s warm welcome for a second season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Circuito do Estoril we can count on an excellent facility with a reputation for great racing and a great team of people to work with, just like we do in Vila Real.
“We thank the FIA and FPAK for accommodating the change of venues on the same date and we send every good wish to the people of Vila Real, who we look forward to meeting again next season when we start our new three-year agreement thanks to the continued enthusiasm and support of Mayor Santos.”
António Lima, President, Motor Clube do Estoril, thanked Eurosport for their trust in the venue as a stand-in for 2021.
“For Motor Clube do Estoril it is with great satisfaction that we receive a WTCR round at Estoril Circuit,” said Lima.
“When we started conversations with Eurosport Events, we were able to change our calendar to accommodate this prestigious race.
“We believe that the layout of the mythical Estoril Circuit, the amazing region of Cascais and the organisational capacity of the Motor Clube do Estoril are the guarantee that this will be a memorable event.
“I would like to express my thanks to FPAK and Estoril Circuit for the support in carrying out this event and to Eurosport Events for their trust and leave the guarantee that the Estoril Circuit will always be available to receive them.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate the Vila Real Circuit for the new three-year agreement to host WTCR Race of Portugal from 2022.
“To the whole WTCR family, welcome to the Estoril Circuit, enjoy this region and have fun!”
Rui Santos, Mayor of Vila Real, explained that the nature of the circuit being so close to the urban extent of Vila Real, made controlling crowd numbers in times of a pandemic practically impossible.
“Unfortunately, for the second consecutive year, Vila Real will not be able to welcome WTCR and enjoy the status as the national capital of motorsport,” said Santos.
“It is particularly sad for us since we are celebrating 90 years since the first races took place in Vila Real, in 1931.
“But we have to be pragmatic and realise that, what makes our circuit unique, is the proximity of the public, free access, conviviality and environment, which is not compatible with the world health crisis we are experiencing.
“Despite this, we are very happy to have agreed with Eurosport Events the return of WTCR for the next three years, starting in 2022.
“We will only formalise this partnership after the municipal elections, scheduled for September, so as not to condition whoever wins those elections, but it is a great satisfaction to realise that, in such a few years, Vila Real has established itself in world motorsport and has shown itself to be a desirable and exciting circuit.
“In any case, we wish the 2021 WTCR Race of Portugal, in Estoril, will be a huge success.”