Spa Francorchamps

February 9, 2009 by  
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Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps of Belgium has been described by many as the world’s top motor racing circuit. Host of the renowned Formula One Belgian Grand Prix as well as the Spa 24 hours race, Spa-Francorchamps winds its way along the magnificent Ardennes mountains. A wonderfully challenging course with the famed Eau Rouge complex, the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One circuit is thoroughly enjoyed by F1 drivers and spectators alike.

It was in 1920 Jule de Thier and Henri Langlois Van Ophem came up with the idea of forming a race track in the quiet village of Francorchamps. A triangular circuit was designed along the roads that joined Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot and the new racing circuit of Spa-Francorchamps was set-up for racing in August 1921. Only one competitor registered so the circuit had to be inaugurated by motorcyclists. But 1922 presented a different scenario as motorists began racing on the new track. The exciting 24 Hours of Francorchamps race was established in 1924, and it was also in that year that the Belgian Grand Prix was held at the circuit. The European Grand Prix took place at the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in 1925. Antonio Ascari in his Alfa Romeo gained the victory that year.

World War II brought a stop to racing at Spa-Francorchamps which became the scene of the famed Battle of Bulge. Fortunately though, racing came back to the F1 circuit in 1947. As time progressed the Spa race track was considered too fast. In 1960 Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed on the track. Jackie Stewart began a campaign to improve safety at Spa-Francorchamps and for a time the Grand Prix was rather held at Nivelles circuit. 1973 was also marred by the death of 3 drivers during the Spa 24 Hours. It was then decided that the track would be redesigned. Finally in 1983 the Spa-Francorchamps was permitted to host F1 again. Today it plays a major part in the world championships.

Spa-Francorchamps F1 circuit has had several modifications over time. Presently it covers a distance of 6.968 km or 4.333 miles with 21 turns. Guiding drivers through the beautiful Ardennes, it is possible to reach speeds greater than 330 km/h. The most impressive section of the Spa-Francochamps circuit is the renowned Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination. Following the La Source hairpin the skilled F1 drivers head down a straight where they hit a steep uphill with left-right-left corners and a blind summit.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was not included on the 2006 Formula One calendar as certain improvements were not yet made due to financial problems. However the circuit was back on the 2007 calendar, and continues to host the annual Formula One Championship event.

Spanish Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Spanish Grand Prix is held annually at the outstanding Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. Forming a part of the Formula One championship, the Spanish Grand Prix is attended by large crowds of eager F1 fans. The Circuit de Catalunya certainly provides the ideal setting for a day at the races, with convenient facilities and excellent views of the thrilling Formula One Action.

In October of 1986 the Catalan parliament decided to begin construction on Barcelona’s very own international racing circuit. Following the purchase of a suitable piece of land, work started on the impressive circuit in 1989. The first ever Spanish Grand Prix to be held at Circuit de Catalunya took place in 1991 in the month of September. It was a very exciting race indeed, with Nigel Mansell taking first place.

This is just the recent history of the Spanish Grand Prix though. In fact, racing began in Spain right back in 1908 with the Catalan Cup. A permanent oval was opened at Sitges in 1923. On 28 October 1923 the second Spanish Grand Prix was held (the first had been a decade earlier). The original Spanish Grand Prix did not take place according to the standard Grand Prix formula at that time, its rules were more like those used for touring cars. The next Spanish Grand Prix was only held in 1926. After years of war the F1 World Championship came to Spain in 1951. For some time the Spanish Grand Prix alternated between the F1 circuits of Montjuic and Jarama. Spanish Grand Prix had a revival in 1991 when Circuit de Catalunya was opened. In no time at all the new circuit in Barcelona became a popular testing ground. Today it remains the host of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Circuit de Catalunya’s 15 grandstands ensure that there is plenty of place for spectators during the Spanish Grand Prix. Large screen televisions around the circuit provide outstanding views of all the fast action. Plenty of public transportation is available to arrive at the Grand Prix on time. Certainly, if you have the opportunity, you don’t want to miss the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya consists of 65 laps around the 4.727 km circuit, totalling 307.324 km. The circuit’s lap record is held by Michael Schumacher who set it in 2004 at 1:17:450. Spanish racing hero Fernando Alonso was the 2006 winner of the Spanish Grand Prix. Following is a list of other winners: Kimi Raikkonen (2005, 2008); Michael Schumacher (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004); Mika Hakkinen (1998, 2000); Filipe Massa (2007); and the most recent win going to Jenson Button (2009). The 2010 Spanish Grand Prix is set to take place on 7-9 May, so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy one of the world’s most exciting sports, in one of the world’s most hospitable countries.

Atlanta Motor Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Formerly known as the Atlanta International Raceway, the Atlanta Motor Speedway is located in Hampton, just to the south of the city of Atlanta. Atlanta Motor Speedway, is a 2.48 kilometer superspeedway, that has a quad-oval circuit and a spectator seating capacity of approximately 125 000. The track first opened in 1960, but condominiums were erected over the northeastern part of the Atlanta Speedway track in 1994. This construction led to the track being redesigned and practically rebuilt in 1997. The front and backstretches were swapped, and the oval form of the track gave way to quad-oval. Today, the Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fastest NASCAR track on the entire NASCAR circuit. The track also includes a 4 kilometer road course, approved by the FIA, and a Legends racing track, between the main track and the pit road.

This NASCAR circuit was seeing qualifying lap speeds of approximately 311 kilometers an hour, with the fastest recorded lap speed of 317 kilometers an hour, between the 1990s and the 2000s. The Texas Motor Speedway, that was designed very similar to the Atlanta Speedway, did have faster times during 2004 to 2005, but after its surface was worn, the higher speeds returned to Atlanta. Tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway did once have faster lap times, averaging about 322 kilometers an hour, but NASCAR mandated restrictor plates for these tracks, making the average speed approximately 306 kilometers an hour. The Atlanta Motor Speedway’s slogan is “Real Racing. Real Fast.” This is not an exaggeration, as NASCAR has not mandated restrictor plates at this track.

Hurricane Cindy hit the Atlanta Motor Speedway on 6 July 2005, with the damage being estimated at approximately 40-50 million US Dollars. Debris was littered across the track, facades were torn off, roofs were damaged, scoreboard towers were knocked down or left leaning and new grandstands had to be built to replace those that were built in 1960. But against all odds, Atlanta Motor Speedway was ready to race by the next big event and has gone on to welcome spectators to witness some of the fastest racing in the United States.

Turkish Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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As one of the newest additions to the Formula One World Championships, the Turkish Grand Prix made its championship debut on 21 August 2005. The event is held at Istanbul Park Circuit – a newly constructed track which was designed by Hermann Tilke. Tilke is a famous German civil engineer and the Istanbul Park Circuit was not his first racetrack project. The circuit is generally considered to be very challenging, as it makes use of the natural contours of the land as well as copies some of the most difficult aspects of other international tracks. It is also one of only three circuits which are raced in an anti-clockwise direction. The other two are the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy and the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Brazil.

The Istanbul Park Circuit track is 5.34 kilometres (3.32 miles) in length. It is lapped 57 times which adds up to a total race length of 309.72 kilometres (192.45 miles). Although the track has a number of interesting twists and turns, turn 8 is generally considered to be the best and most challenging corner on the track. The turn is basically a combination of four corners which are joined together to form an intense turn with a 5G load capacity that lasts for four seconds. As if the turn itself wasn’t challenging enough, many drivers attempt to take it too fast and this usually results in them spinning off the track. Such was the case in the 2005 Turkish Grand Prix when Juan Pablo Montoya lost his leading advantage by taking turn 8 too fast in an attempt to lap Tiago Monteiro just two laps before the finish. His car spun out of control, tangled with his opponent and both were overtaken by Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Although he has never won the Turkish Grand Prix, the fastest lap time of 1:28.005 was set by Michael Schumacher whilst driving for Ferrari. In 2005 the race was won by Kimi Raikkonen and in 2006 the trophy was taken by Felipe Massa. Unfortunately at the end of 2006 the winners trophy was presented in such a way that the political neutrality policy of the FIA was compromised. Fears that the Turkish Grand Prix might be scratched from the World Championships were put to rest when Turkey was fined $5 million for their inappropriate behaviour.

Felipe Massa went on to claim first place again at the 2007 and 2008 Turkish Grand Prix events, with Jenson Button winning the 2009 event. Turkey is one of the host countries on the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship race calendar, with the action taking place on 28-30 May as the seventh event of the season.

Phoenix International Raceway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Built in 1964, the Phoenix International Raceway was originally designed to be one of the best American open wheel racing tracks available. The raceway was carved out of the Estrella Mountains giving the racetrack an incredibly picturesque backdrop. This meant that the new track, which is located at Avondale in Arizona, not only replaced the old one at the Arizona State Fairgrounds but quickly became a favorite amongst racing greats at the time. What’s more, the development of the track further spurred on the developing tourism industry, which meant that it contributed to the economy of the local community in quite a significant way. However, things only really started to take off at the track in 1988 when the Phoenix International Raceway was chosen to host some NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races. Suddenly racing legends could be found in every corner of the town and the whole of America discovered just what a great track the Phoenix International Raceway was.

The Phoenix International Raceway is one mile (1.6 km) in length and takes the form of a D-shaped tri-oval. It has a seating capacity of 76 800 and is currently owned by the International Speedway Corporation. Because the track was built right at the foot of a rocky mountain range, it had to be designed around its geographic location. Thus there is a curve in the middle of the backstretch which is situated between turns two and three. This curve is a rather unique feature and is commonly known as ‘the dogleg’. The ‘dogleg’ design allowed the designers to include an external road course and a drag strip into the overall design of the track. Turns 1 & 2 have an 11-degree bank while Turns 3 & 4 have a 9-degree bank. The front straight has a 3-degree bank while the back straight has a 9-degree bank.

Today things at the Phoenix International Raceway are somewhat different from what they originally were. The external road course gave way for an infield road circuit. The crossovers that were originally built to access this infield circuit were sealed off in 2005 after construction of a tunnel under turn four. The drag strip is also seldom used, but the raceway continues to be a popular venue for racing in general. Unfortunately, the raceway was unable to host the Indy Racing League in 2005 which brought to an end a long history of hosting this premier event. Still the raceway continues to enjoy its unmatched tradition of hosting 58 IndyCar events including the Fall NASCAR weekend, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks Series and Featherlite Southwest Series.

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