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Monsanto Park


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#1 Barry Boor

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 09:39

Thanks to all the Portuguese members for their warnings about visiting the park. I checked with our holiday rep on the first day in Estoril and she confirmed everything that had been said.

However..... On Tuesday afternoon, we went on a guided tour of Lisbon, in a mini-bus. The driver was an extremely nice gentleman named (I believe) Carlos. During a stop at one of the tourist sites, I introduced the subject of Monsanto Park and as we had only 8 people on the bus, he suggested that he might ask the other tourists if they minded a minor detour on the way back to Estoril. They didn't mind, so the plan was hatched.

Sadly, the weather was awful. Low cloud and drizzling rain. Totally out of character for Portugal in early June (but then Europe has had a rotten week of weather all round!) The rain had caused the Portuguese populace to drive somewhat slower than they normally would so the traffic jam leaving the city on the A5 motorway was horrendous.

A mutual decision had to be made and the detour was abandoned (we were late anyway.)
Then, this wonderfully helpful driver told me that he would come to my hotel, in his own car, the following morning and drive me to and around the old circuit. I could hardly believe my ears!

But, sure enough, next morning, on the dot of 10.30, there he was.

I have marked the circuit line with blue dots on the map.

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It took but a few minutes to drive along to the point on the motorway where the Grand Prix circuit joined it. Apparently this motorway has been rebuilt since 1959 so we were hardly travelling the same stretch of road but, no matter, we were in the right place.

We dropped off the motoway onto a link road that runs into the park. The shape of the gentle right, then left curves looks pretty accurate when compared to the circuit map but may be in a slightly different place to the original. Once into the park the first thing one finds is a roundabout which of course, was not there in '59. However, from the other side of this roundabout the next mile and a half or so are absolutely spot-on to the original track. (see map)

Later, as the circuit runs down towards the bottom left corner, where it joins the Estrada dos Marcos, the road has been widened (I think). A problem occurred at the very bottom of the track as there is a one-way system now in operation between the 2 roundabouts shown on the map, and it goes the wrong way, so Carlos stopped the car and I got out and walked around the bottom bend videoing as I went. (Or so I thought - see later).

I was looked at somewhat strangely by 2 Portuguese policemen sat on horses by the side of the road and by people waiting at a bus stop. Once round the bend, (many would say that I have been there for years!) I met up with Carlos again, in front of what he described as the best fish restaurant in Lisbon. At that point, there is another roundabout and this, I think, would have been just about where the start/finish point was on the circuit.

Once across the roundabout I was surprised to find the road dropping down VERY steeply as it approached the corners that lead back onto the motorway. About half-way down this section, I had to get out again because the traffic is routed off to the left. The road, however, does continue down its original path, ending in a tight left-hand bend which in 1959 led into a right hander back onto the straight. (This small piece of road is not shown on the map but I have added it in as a pink line.) The road here has been altered so that although cars still turn around onto the motorway at this point, it cannot be the original piece of road.

Now the silly bit. As we approached the roundabout where I got out, I THOUGHT I had switched off the video camera. I hadn't! So I then had several minutes of the the car's dashboard/my lap/ my feet/the ground and very few glimpses of the race track. Every time I switched the camera on, I was actually switching it off, and vice versa. What a pillock! :rolleyes:

Thanks heavens I decided to look at the video that night. Once I realised what had happened, I resolved to go back and do that bit again. As you can see from the map, that part of the track is barely in the park so I felt reasonably safe about it. So on Thursday morning I took a train to Belem and walked up the hill back to the little section of road that I had made a horlicks of the day before.

Mercifully, the policemen were no longer there - I suspect they may have been a tad suspicious had they seen this strange, obviously foreign tourist wielding a video camera and apparently recording the same bits of road two days in a row. :blush:

So what did I learn? Well, number one is that trees grow an enormous amount in 43 years! It is going to be very had to tie in what I have on my camera with the photos that I have seen from the race in 1959. Where there was scrub land beside the track, there is now forest. In several places on the original circuit it was possible to see right down to the river but now that can only be seen from one point - entering the double right hander at the bottom of the circuit.

The section of road from the exit off the motorway round to the bottom corner must have been very exciting in a narrow-tyred 2.5 litre F1 car. The bends are not tight and would, I imagine have been very fast; as would the run downhill from the start.

With regard to the warnings about what goes on in the park..... I didn't see any of 'those' ladies, although Carlos said that there were some sitting on benches here and there and that I did not see them as I was concentrating on my video. He may be pulling my leg, I shall study my video very carefully. I should say that my good lady wife Heather had no objections to my visiting the place! :D

I hope that the attached map and description gives the reader an idea of what the old Monsanto Park circuit is like, 43 years after its only Grand Prix race, and as the week progresses I shall run the video and capture some stills to give the reader (should anyone still be interested in this drivel) an idea of Monsanto Park in 2002.

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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 10:34

Have you been away? We hadn't noticed!! :p :p :lol:

Seriously Barry - great stuff! Sounds like you had fun, despite the weather - as I write this it's p*ssing down here too, as it has all week. Ahhh, the joys of a maritime climate :rolleyes:

Piccies please! :)

#3 RSNS

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Posted 09 June 2002 - 14:33

Great job and a very accurate reconstruction. Glad you could get some help. What a kind fellow Carlos must be!

The intact section - you can race through it by night - is from the eastern roundabout to the roundabout you find when you join estrada dos marcos. A couple of years ago you could also get the feeling of most of the steep downhill part, but not anymore. At the southern and westernmost roundabouts there were two corners: a fast hunchback to the left (still extant) and a slower but still fast right hander (that's the section you can't drive through nowadays). From there you accelerated hard and began the descent. The bottom of it was rather scary. Must have been an interesting circuit.

P.S.: The best fish restaurant in Lisbon is the Navy Club, not that one.

#4 Barry Boor

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Posted 17 June 2002 - 21:55

After some delay due to being incredibly busy at school, plus all sorts of sporting events to watch, I have captured some stills from my lap of the park. I hope to get around to posting them in the next few days.

#5 Barry Boor

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Posted 01 July 2002 - 22:31

After much fiddling and faffing, I have finally got together the set of images to illustrate, as best as I can, the current site of the Monsanto circuit.
Some things should be mentioned first: the images are stills taken from a video camera in a moving car (with a few exceptions) so they are not as clear as still photos - apologies for that.
The numbers on the following map indicate where each image is taken from. One or two may be in slightly the wrong place but not far out, I hope!
I have made the images quite small files so I hope they load up fairly quickly.
There are several rounabouts that obviously were not there in 1959 - I have more or less excluded them from the map.
Finally, it must be remembered that the trees in the park were planted around 1940 (info courtesy of Carlos Guerra) so when the Grand Prix was run there, they had been growing for a maximum of 19 years - probably some for considerably less time - whereas they have had another 43 years more time to grow, hence the fact that the track is almost entirely tree lined.

All images except 24 and 26 are looking in the direction the cars travelled. The 2 aforementioned look back up the road.

(it would appear that it is not possible to put 26 images in one post so I will attach the others in further posts)

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I think this crossing is just about where the start/finish point was.

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#6 Barry Boor

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Posted 01 July 2002 - 22:31

Here are the rest of the images:

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#7 RSNS

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 03:05

A very accurate description and illustration. A long time ago, deep at night, I 'raced' the entire circuit for a couple of laps. 14 to 18 are very demanding. Without the turnabouts, 22-26 was also quite difficult. I never drove through the end of the downway straight, because that has been modified for quite a while.

#8 pinchevs

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 10:42

WOW Barry, what a trip!
Thanks a LOT for your efforts to give us these pictures and maps :clap:

Picture 18 looks like a dangerous situation...

When I went with my friend to the Barcelona GP in 2001, we took our wives for a lap of the circuit of Peralbes and Montjuich! I wanted to do it alone very early in the morning, but my friend wanted to do it together with the ladies and it turned out exectly like you would think it turned out... At least at Montjuich we were able to make it up to them by going to the Miro musium...

I've got the pictures from Montjuich on my computer if you want to see, but the pictures from Pedralbes, I'll have to scan, so if it interests anyone, it would take me a little while, as I'm busy and I'm also switching to a new computer.

Thanks again.

Moshe Pinchevsky

#9 RSNS

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 14:51

Originally posted by pinchevs
Picture 18 looks like a dangerous situation...


16 and the one before are the difficult ones: you must come out of 16 right in order to storm through 18, which is done flat out; after it you had a 120ยบ left.

#10 pinchevs

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 15:06

Errr... RSNS, what I ment was that it looks like a truck is overtaking and going straight at the car Barry was sitting in... :eek:

#11 Doug Nye

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 15:15

Terrific job Barry - I LOVE 'then and now' material....

DCN

#12 Don Capps

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 15:38

I was THERE and really enjoyed seeing this. I was startled to see the trees -- so many and so big! -- in places I didn't remember them being like that. We were mostly in the area between, I think, 6 and 17/19 -- that area during the race and other areas during practice. Wow, it looks so different! Okay, it was almost 43 years ago.... ;)

Wow! This is great! :clap: :wave:

#13 RSNS

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 16:35

Originally posted by pinchevs
Errr... RSNS, what I ment was that it looks like a truck is overtaking and going straight at the car Barry was sitting in... :eek:


:blush: :) !!

#14 Barry Boor

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 19:44

Errr... RSNS, what I ment was that it looks like a truck is overtaking and going straight at the car Barry was sitting in...



Not quite! Actually the truck was parked. Some men were working on the grass verge at that point. They had parked right on the apex of the bend and my very kind companion had to wait before we could go around it and continue the lap. I was a tad miffed as it spoilt the view around that corner.