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Portimao track undergoes key safety changes ahead of MotoGP round

The Algarve International Circuit has undergone several key safety changes, most notably to the gravel traps, ahead of this weekend's MotoGP Portuguese Grand Prix.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Over the last few years, riders have been calling for the gravel traps at the circuit near Portimao to be altered due to what they felt was a dangerous size of stone being used.

This issue first came into the spotlight at the 2022 Portuguese GP when Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia suffered a crash during Friday practice and subsequently scooped up a handful of stones from the gravel to take back to his garage.

The gravel trap issue was discussed in the safety commission that year, but in 2023 Gresini's Fabio Di Giannantonio was forced to miss the final day of pre-season testing in Portugal after he crashed into the gravel.

The Italian suffered a concussion after his crash helmet was shattered by the blow of the stones, which led him at the time to say: "If we have to race like this, we should go to Monaco where it's more show and the risk would be the same."

After this incident, the riders continued to put pressure on the championship to get the circuit to make the changes to the gravel they had long requested.

As MotoGP returns to Portugal this weekend for the second round of the 2024 season, most of the gravel in the run-off areas around the Algarve track has been replaced.

A document detailing the upgrades to the circuit reads: "Most of the gravel areas have a new type of stone, some asphalt run-offs have been reduced to increase the gravel areas, and air fence modules have been added."

Gravel, track, circuit

Gravel, track, circuit

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

While not explicitly stated where exactly the new air fencing has been placed, an area of focus will be at Turn 10 where Pol Espargaro suffered his serious accident last year in practice.

The former Tech3 GasGas rider was flicked from his KTM in the latter stages of second practice as he pushed on an out-lap to warm his tyres for a time attack.

Espargaro suffered numerous fractures to his back and jaw and was forced to miss half of the 2023 season, having hit an unprotected tyre barrier in the incident. An air fence was placed at that corner following the incident last year.

Other changes to the circuit include the installation of new kerbs at Turns 4, 8, 14 and 15 to help riders avoid track limits infringements.

As well as changes to the track, MotoGP is also enforcing a new sustainability measure in the paddock in Portugal that will mean all scooters used for getting around by personnel must be electric.

This will apply at all European rounds in 2024 and comes as MotoGP switched to sustainable fuel of 40% non-fossil origin for this year, ahead of a shift to 100% in 2027.

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