Less than one week after A1 Grand Prix's first race calendar revealed Estoril as the host of the third round of a twelve-race series, Portugal became the first country in continental Europe to unveil its car.

At a prestigious ceremony attended by Portugal's secretary of sport Laurentino Dias, as well as prominent business leaders and high-profile sporting stars including national soccer coach Luis Felipe Scolari, seat holders Luis Figo and Carlos Queiroz revealed the Portuguese car in traditional colours amid fireworks and lasers at the magnificent Centro Cultural de Belem in Lisbon.

Real Madrid star Figo and Manchester United assistant coach Queiroz were among the highest profile seat holders to be announced in the early stages of the A1 GP dream, and bring an added dimension to the series with the football connections. Subsequent deals have thrown up the intriguing prospect of Figo's Madrid team-mate Ronaldo heading up the Brazilian A1 GP team and going-head-to-head with his team-mate in the pit-lane when the series kicks off at Brands Hatch in September.

"I have always dreamed - and I continue to dream - of a Portugal capable to fight for a victory on all fronts," Figo commented at the launch, "Because of this idea of a
competitive country, open to the biggest international challenges, I decided to be associated with the creation of A1 Team Portugal, so that, in motorsport as well, we can demonstrate our talent and daring, in a competitive format that provides a level playing field, and to project Portugal as a country of champions."

Queiroz revealed that he shared the player's love of motorsport, and had the same determination to propel Portugal to the front of the field.

"The creation of A1 Grand Prix is going to revolutionise the competitive format of world motorsport, giving opportunities to countries like Portugal to rival developed nations on an equal basis, to demonstrate the value of its team and to compete for victory in each race," he said, "This project allows the image of Portugal and its main brands to develop and allows the Portuguese to demonstrate again all their passion for motorsport and enhance the sport with hundreds of thousand of fans in our country."

Welcoming A1 Team Portugal to the series, A1 GP CEO Tony Teixeira acknowledged the impact both Figo and Queiroz could have on spectator interest.

"It is fantastic to see international football stars of the calibre of Figo and Queiroz involved in A1 Grand Prix, bringing football fans to the motor racing arena," he said.

Teixeira also revealed that the series was close to completing its initial target of 25 competing countries, with further announcements expected in the next couple of months. Former F1 racer Pedro Lamy is tipped to drive the Portuguese entry, at least at the start of the season.

"Portugal is a nation with a great heritage and, through A1 Team Portugal and the Estoril race, I believe it can reclaim its position as one of the leading countries in international motorsport," series founder Sheikh Maktoum concluded, "Through the medium of A1 Grand Prix, Portugal has the opportunity to showcase itself as a country, but also to demonstrate the growth and development in its business sector and portray this to the world."

Portugal has joined Britain, South Africa, China, Australia, Mexico, Pakistan and Lebanon in launching their cars, with other countries expected to follow suit shortly.

 

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