Gilles Villeneuve Circuit

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit was named in honor of Gilles Villeneuve, a Canadian driver and father to Jacques Villeneuve. The circuit was constructed on a man-made island named Ile Notre-Dame, which is located in the St Lawrence River, in Montreal. In addition to hosting the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, the circuit hosts an event in the NASCAR Busch Series. It was also home to the Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Montreal that was hosted here between the years 2002 to 2006.

With its location in the St Lawrence River, for most of the year, Ile Notre Dame is a quiet island that is lush and green and the fastest moving objects on its surface, are animals, cycle enthusiasts and the joggers. But for a few days each year, within this idyllic setting, the island comes alive with racing action and all its accompanying noise and frantic activity.

The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is part street circuit, and is extremely fast, with a common problem for drivers being to misjudge the barriers that are located very close to the track. The most famous part of this track, is a wall that is located just outside the end of the last chicane, which said “Welcome to Quebec” and was later nicknamed the Quebec Wall. Three Formula 1 champions had their races brought to an abrupt end when colliding with this infamous wall, namely Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher. The wall no longer carries the name Quebec Wall, but was renamed the Wall of Champions.

In 2005, the curbs in the last chicane were made higher, and drivers complained that they were more difficult to see and that the curbs made the chicane even more difficult for drivers to navigate. The changes were extremely controversial, as they had reduced the area for general admission ticket holders, to see the race. This forces spectators to purchase grandstand tickets, to enable them to see.

Normand Legault was awarded exclusive rights, by the city of Montreal, to host two race weekends on the track. Legault is the promoter for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix. The contract for the rights, runs from the year 2007 to the year 2011, after which there is an option to extend it from 2012 to the year 2016. The Champ Car Races have been replaced with the NASCAR Busch Series and the Grand American Road Racing Associations’ Rolex Series.

Silverstone Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Britain’s Silverstone Speedway, with its rich history in the world of auto racing, is incredibly fast with a long complex of high-speed corners that thrill spectators and challenges drivers. In fact, most of its twist and turns leave other circuits in the dust. The change of direction is so quick that driver’s testify to feeling the “speed” of the car. You need good aerodynamics at Silverstone, so this is where all the hard work in the wind tunnel before the race pays off!

Silverstone Speedway was opened as a World War II airfield in 1943, near the leafy village of the same name. Once the war had ended in 1945, Britain was left with a number of sprawling airfields, but without a major racetrack: Donington Park was still a military vehicle storage depot, Brooklands had been sold off, Crystal Palace was in a state of disrepair, and Brands Hatch was still under-developed.

The Royal Automobile Club was interested in Silverstone as a potential site and approached the Air Ministry in 1948 and a lease was arranged. At this time, the centre of Silverstone Circuit was a farm that produced cereal crops and raised pigs! Out of such humble surroundings legends are born: the RAC employed farmer James Wilson Brown to create the first Grand Prix circuit at the site and gave him just two months to build it.

On October 2nd, 1948, amid straw bales and ropes, the first event at Silverstone Speedway took place, the RAC Grand Prix. The crowds came in their thousands, thrilled to see the return of Grand Prix racing after so many years of war austerity. The 3.67 mile course sent the 23 competing cars racing round part of the perimeter track, up the two former runways and back to the perimeter. This layout meant cars were racing towards each other head-on until they turned sharp left and returned to the perimeter. For this reason, canvas screens were erected across the centre of the circuit to stop the drivers being distracted whilst the spectators were not permitted to enter the centre of the circuit because of the potential damage to growing crops.

The winner of the inaugural race at the Silverstone circuit was Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati, who recorded an average speed of 72 mph to claim the first prize of £500. A year later, after the hazardous runways were eliminated and a chicane was inserted on the full perimeter road, Silverstone Speedway hosted a second major event in May 1949 – the Formula One Daily Express International Trophy – virtually a second Grand Prix, won by Alberto Ascari.

Another of Silverstone Speedway’s most famous classics also began in August 1949, the Daily Express International Trophy for Formula One cars and for this meeting the Club chicane was dispensed with and the circuit took up a shape that was to last for a quarter of a century.

Back in 1950, Silverstone Speedway was the birthplace of today’s FIA Formula One World Championship. Today the Speedway remains one of the world’s most historic tracks, but the challenges faced on every corner are no less daunting than any other circuit raced by the greatest names in F1 today.

Talladega SuperSpeedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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It took two men of vision (William “Bill” France along with Bill Ward) to look beyond the bare dirt expanse and abandoned buildings that stood before them, to see the potential for what would ultimately become the biggest, fastest and most competitive super-speedway in the world – Talladega Speedway.

There were several possible sites in the Southeastern United States for the proposed speedway. Talladega, Alabama emerged as the top choice thanks to it’s accessibility to the interstate, and being in the middle of a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Over 20,000 acres of available land to construct on didn’t hurt either!

Back in 1969, the Super Speedway was called the Alabama International Motor Speedway, and in 1989 the name changed. But long before then, the track had surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.

With Bill France as the guiding force, construction began on the site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race several months later on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National race – the Talladega 500 (now known as the UAW-Ford 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.

Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.

It was not long before the Talladega Speedway came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at what quickly became known as “the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.”

The track at the Talladega is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This layout has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour in competition.

The grandstands seating capacity at the Speedway is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.

Many stars have raced around the track’s challenging curves, but the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 UAW-Ford 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress. When he captured the 1990 UAW-Ford 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added UAW-Ford 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.

Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Aaron’s 312 Busch Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Aaron’s 499 victories.

Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega Super Speedway, and the record book backs this up.

Hockenheimring

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Hockenheimring, or Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg, is located near the town of Hockenheim, situated in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. This circuit is the host to the Formula One German Grand Prix, and many other racing events.

The Hockenheimring was constructed in the Rhine Valley in 1932, and was built due to the closing of the Wildpark-Circuit that was located in Karlsruhe, by German Officials. In its early years, the Hockenheimring Circuit was used for motorcycle races, but in 1936 it became a test track for Auto Union and for Mercedes-Benz. The circuit was renamed to Kurpfalzring in 1938, but the name only lasted until the year 1947 before reverting to its original name. Grand Prix motorcycle racing was held here after the war, alternating between Hockenheim and other racing circuits.

Originally, Hockenheimring consisted of an eight kilometer track, that had two long straights, with a U-turn and an outstretched eastern corner running through the forest and joining the two straights together. The Autobahn A6 separated the main part of the track from the village in 1965, and it brought about the construction of the “Motodrom” stadium and a new Hockenheimring Circuit version. Crash barriers and two chicanes were added after Jim Clark had a fatal accident in a Formula 2 race in the year 1968. An additional chicane was added in 1980, to the Ostkurve, after another driver, Patrick Depailler, lost his life.

Formula One Officials requested that the Hockenheimring circuit be shortened in 2000, as the track was 6.8 kilometers, and gave the state government of Baden-Wurttemberg an ultimatum that either the circuit must be shortened, or they would move the event to another circuit. The state government received financing and commissioned Hermann Tilke to redesign the circuit before the 2002 German Grand Prix. The redesign had most of the stadium section remain the same, except for a much tighter corner in Turn 1 and new surfacing. The circuit was shortened to the extreme, which cut off the entire forest section and replaced it with more tight corners. The tight hairpin corner that was added to follow a long straight, has presented drivers with another opportunity for overtaking. A large stand that is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, gives the Hockenheimring Circuit a spectator capacity of 120,000. It also has a quarter-mile track that hosts drag racing, with the Nitro Olympics being the biggest event in Europe.

The German Grand Prix was hosted by the Hockenheimring Circuit for the first time in 1970, and from 1971 to 1976 the German Grand Prix was hosted by Nurburgring. During the years 1977 to 2006, the German Grand Prix moved back to the Hockenheimring Circuit, with the exception of 1985. It was decided that from 2007, starting with Nurburgring, the German Grand Prix will alternate between Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring Circuit.

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.

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