Hovertrack Portugal brings three fabulous hovercrafts to Portimão
Some people take the expression “New Year, new beginnings” to a whole new level and it’s safe to say that for Nuno and Fernanda Mourão, opening their dream, Hovertrack Portugal, on December 31, 2016 fits that phrase perfectly.
The first of its kind in Portugal, with three hovercrafts on site and an ever- changing track, the hovertrack has been purposebuilt and the business has taken over three years of bureaucratic blood, sweat and tears to finally come to fruition. Inside Magazine took the opportunity to visit Hovertrack Portugal a few weeks after opening to meet the people who made it happen and try out the hovercrafts for ourselves. We set off from Carvoeiro taking the pretty, scenic drive up towards the Autódromo do Algarve (Algarve Racetrack) and around 20 minutes later we came across the large sign for Hovertrack Portugal on the right-hand side. Glad that we decided to drive there by car rather than bike, we went offroad, down the dirt track towards the reception cabin where we met the lovely Nuno and Fernanda.
They showed us around the three, 300m tracks, which consist of both dry and wet areas with varying degrees of elevation and levels of difficulty to suit both novice and experienced pilots (drivers). Nuno told us: “It is different to anything anyone has ever driven or tried to drive.”
We headed back to the reception where we watched an informative orientation/instruction video to acquaint ourselves with the machines, along with basic operating techniques and a quick safety briefing. We were then ready to put on our protective overalls
and helmets and walked back to the track where the three, bright red and yellow hovercrafts were sitting.
Nuno explained: “The machines have 600cc, 17kw, four-stroke petrol engines that power the fans, lifting them off the ground and use pressurised air to keep them afloat.”
It’s pretty strange, but a lot of fun, when you start up the craft and the “tyre” fills with air – it’s a bit like riding a floating
quad bike, if you can imagine that … Steering is not as straight forward as you might imagine and the hovercrafts can pick up some speed as they glide over land and water, but they are actually very safe as the moment you take your hand off the throttle the skirt (tyre) deflates and the craft stops.
There are members of staff at various points on the track to guide and assist the pilot as and when they may need it. You can navigate the track at a leisurely pace if that’s your preference or, for the more adrenalineminded speed lovers out there, you can accelerate around the course and pick up some real momentum.
We asked Nuno and Fernanda how they came up with this unique idea and an animated Fernanda explained that this is in fact her husband’s childhood dream come true: “Nuno always loved engines, ever since he was a child. When he was young, he saw a hovercraft championship on TV – it must have been around 1994 – and he never forgot it.”
Nuno grew up working in mechincal engineering and spent a few years as a manager at the neighbouring Kartódromo do Algarve (Algarve Go-kart Track) where he could combine his love of engines and enjoy racing on the track.
When we asked the couple how they came up with the idea, they both smiled and Nuno told us that they were sitting at home thinking about track racing and what they could do in that area, they looked at each other and in unison said “hovercraft”.
The original project was pitched to a scheme called Portugal 2020, a partnership between the Portuguese and the European Commissions, with huge investment funding for the future. Unfortunately, the application wasn’t successful, but by this point they had invested so much time and energy into the business plan and could visualise Nuno’s childhood dream, that they took the brave decision to proceed alone.
The investment so far, has been considerable: finding the land, attaining the appropriate planning permissions and licences, creating the tracks, buying the hovercrafts and putting themselves on the map. Of course, as the business develops there will be a need to purchase more hovercrafts, change the track and the couple has some new and exciting ideas and they are involved in discussions to reactivate the championship races again with the help of local councils.
We did a 30-minute session, which was thoroughly enjoyable and plan on going back with a group. Prices are inclusive of
safety/instruction briefing, protective clothing and equipment, tuition and time in the hovercraft.
The couple has kindly extended a 10% discount to Inside Magazine readers with the regular prices being €45 for 20 minutes,