Multi-million dollar corporate sponsorship deals, wall-to-wall advertising and clinical safety measures have culminated in modern motor racing circuits seeming about as dangerous as a lawn tennis court.
The lost race circuits of the world
The lost race circuits of the world
Brooklands, situated adjacent to the River Wey between Byfleet and Weybridge in Surrey, holds an esteemed place in the history of both motor racing and aeronautics. Constructed in 1906, it was the first purpose-built banked motor racing circuit in the world, and was considered the home of British motor racing until 1939. The course crossed the river Wey via a specially constructed bridge of ferro-concrete called the Hennebique, after its French designer, and was the first bridge of its kind. The track was especially famous for ÒThe BumpÓ, where the bridge connected with the far bank of the Wey, with the resulting lip causing speeding cars to leap high into the air, to the delight of spectators. Sadly with the declaration of war in 1939 the circuit was requisitioned by the government and was turned into a production line for hurricane fighters never to see racing again.
Crystal Palace motor racing circuit hosted events for racing cars, saloon cars and motorcycles over the years following its opening in 1927. Motorcycles were the first machines to compete against each other, racing around the park's pathways until car racing took over in 1953. Great names of the sport such as Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham made their names there. Racing continued until the circuit's closure in 1973. It was partially re-opened on an annual basis between 1997 and 2000 for a two-day sprint. This proved to be so popular that eventually special-interest cars were given priority at the oversubscribed venue.
Opened in 1966, the Keimola Motor Stadium race circuit was used mainly for F2 races, although many famous F1 drivers did compete there, as they were then allowed to participate in F2 events. These included motor racing legends such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme and many others. Finland's first drag racing competition was staged there in 1975, and between 1974 and 1978 there were five European Rally cross Championship rounds staged at the venue. Today the track stands airily silent with the control tower still intact.
The Automobil-Verkehrs- und Ubungs-Strabe, is now in a suburb of Berlin and is used as a public road. It was once a famous racetrack, although its two long straights, each terminating in a hairpin bend, make it more reminiscent of an ancient Roman chariot racing course. The Avus circuit was opened in 1921, although parts of it had been constructed as far back as 1907. From 1927, the track competed directly with the Nurburgring to be the world's fastest, and literally cut corners in 1936 by turning the northern bend into a tight turn... a brick-built Wall of Death that cars could easily fly off! in the immediate aftermath of world war two as you drove around the track you passed through Soviet territory as it crossed what became the Berlin wall. The last races were held there in 1998 as the fall of the Berlin wall caused increasing traffic problems and closure was inevitable.
The Reims-Gueux street circuit in France was established in 1926. It originally consisted of just a series of public roads between two adjacent villages. A pair of long straights between them encouraged slipstream battles as cars fought to gain the advantage by maximising their straight-line speeds and pushing their vehicles to the limit. To make the circuit as fast as possible trees were felled and buildings demolished. In 1952 one of the villages, Gueux, was bypassed and the track simply became known as Reims. The Grand Prix de la Marne was its first event of any real importance, with the first F1 racing in 1950. F1 last used it in 1966, and it was finally closed down in 1972 as a result of financial difficulties.
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However some of the forgotten monuments and crumbling buildings across Europe tell the story of a glorious past where legends were created and heroic reputations were forged in hair-raising feats of competitiveness and driving skill.