Northern Spain has its first motor racing circuit. This is big news for racers and fans in this part of the world, with over 25,000 of them pouring through the gates of the Circuito de Navarra for the opening ceremony in June.
Enthusiasts have waited a long time for this, previously having to make the trip south to Jarama, or further still to Barcelona or Jerez. Now the regional government of Navarra has invested €43 million in a superb new facility ﬁt for everything apart from an FIA World Championship Grand Prix.
The new 2.4-mile (3.9km) track, certiﬁed for Formula 1 testing by the FIA, lies in a spectacular valley on the edge of Los Arcos, two hours south of Bilbao. It is also a short hop from the French border and a few miles west of Pamplona, capital of Navarra and world-famous for its encierro, or running of the bulls. This event, which involves locals being chased through the streets by bulls, is important to the new circuit. Bosses plan to stage a race near to the encierro in July, when over a million people descend upon Pamplona.
Navarra is a multi-purpose facility offering two circuit layouts, a kart track and a ‘sliding track’ or skidpan with its own sprinkler system. There is also a classic car museum, corporate hospitality suites for track days, a restaurant and conference rooms, and huge spectator banks with a panoramic view of the racing.
The international circuit, FIA certiﬁed at Grade 2, has an 800-metre main straight followed by 15 challenging corners – six left- and nine right-handers. There are 32 pit garages with viewing terraces above and a paddock area of 41,000 square metres.
These are the bare facts and ﬁgures. But it is the passion for racing in north-western Spain that the government believes will be the key to success at this spectacular new addition to the country’s motor sport business.
“There is enormous enthusiasm for all kinds of motor sport in this region, not just for cars but also for motorcycles,” said Michel Ligonnet (top), former GT racer, circuit director and driving force behind the project. “Before, fans had to travel hundreds of kilometres to get to a race. We are hoping that enthusiasts will come from France and Britain too, [what with] being close to the border and to the ferries at Santander. This is the smallest region in Spain but the wealthiest, so the government – with the energetic support of their President Miguel Sanz – has been able to invest in what they believe will be a major boost to the regional economy.”
A highlight of the opening day was the appearance of the new Inmotec Superbike, designed and built just down the road from the circuit and ridden by local hero Ivan Silva. There was rapturous applause for the bike that carries the hopes of Spain on the international stage.
“This is a serious effort,” says Ligonnet. “This is a technologically advanced machine produced here in a region that has huge enthusiasm for the sport and serious ambition. We have more than 1000 bikes here for the opening day and an impressive grid of GT cars. We have authority from the FIA and the FIM for F1 and MotoGP testing, and maybe one day in the future we will have the Spanish Grand Prix.”
Circuito de Navarra lies alongside the ancient Christian pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela on the Atlantic coast. It will soon be on every motor racing enthusiast’s international map too.