The Bathurst of South America

A new circuit around a volcanic lake in Argentina has been hailed as a modern classic. The Circuito Internacional Potrero de los Funes was universally praised by drivers in both the FIA GT Championship and the Argentinian TC2000 touring car series. The two series christened the 3.9-mile semi-permanent road course near the city of San Luis in November.

Andrea Bertolini, who was crowned FIA GT Champion together with Vitaphone Maserati team boss Michael Bartels after the race, rated Potrero as ”the best street circuit in the world”. Gigawave Aston Martin driver Allan Simonsen described it as ”a cross between Bathurst and Spa”. For Ricardo Risatti, a TC2000 frontrunner who also guested in the FIA GT race, it was ”easily the best circuit in Argentina”.

FIA GT boss Stephane Ratel said the new track was exactly what a sports car circuit should be. “The idea was to have a very fast circuit; most of our tracks right now lack speed,” he said. “The legendary circuits are usually very fast, very challenging, natural circuits not designed by computers.”

The track takes its layout from public roads, which have been used for racing twice in the past, the last time back in 1987. A £20 million investment funded by the San Luis state government has created an ultra-wide FIA-spec circuit.

Ratel is predicting that the new track will become a tourist destination in its own right, just like Bathurst’s Mount Panorama circuit in Australia or the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.

”The biggest activity at Bathurst is punters going there to do a lap; it is the same with the Nordschleife,” he said. ”Why not here? I really believe that Potrero de los Funes could become the Bathurst of South America.”

Ratel outlined his hopes that the San Luis event will become one of the lynchpins of his planned World Championship for GT1 cars in 2010.

“The day I have 10 big events, I will have a big championship,” he said. “This is definitely going to be one of the 10 events.”

Ratel plans for San Luis to join up with at least one more race in South America when his World Championship comes on stream. “Obviously we have to go to Brazil and I have several options for a third country [for 2010],” said Ratel, who plans to announce his World Championship calendar in March.