Built at a reputed cost of over £50 million on site of the former steelworks near Corby, Northamptonshire, the Rockingham Speedway was an exciting addition to the British racing landscape when it opened in 2001. A five-year contract was signed with Champ Car sanctioning body CART but the country’s fastest race lasted just two events.
The inaugural Rockingham 500 in 2001 featured a magnificent late-race dice in the fading autumn light between winner Gil de Ferran and Sweden’s Kenny Bräck. The new speedway had proved faster than expected (Tony Kanaan set an unofficial record speed of 215 mph in practice), but overtaking was difficult. However, organisational shortcomings, a barely-finished facility, and worse, water seeping onto the track from below, marred the event. That prevented the cars from running until raceday and delayed the start until 4.45pm. Much had improved when the race returned a year later with Scotland’s Dario Franchitti scoring a popular “home” victory. However, disappointing attendances and CART’s financial and political problems saw the race cancelled.
Instead of international oval racing, national series such as the British Touring Car Championship now entertain the crowds on Rockingham’s road courses.