Following this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix the Formula One championship heads directly to Suzuka in Japan.
The John Hugenholz-designed circuit is a favourite among drivers for its fast and unforgiving nature. It also boasts one feature which sets it apart from most other circuits: it has a crossover.
There’s something undeniably cool about a racing circuit with a crossover. Around 95% of the slot car racing tracks I built in my youth had them.
From an engineering point of view they differ from ‘normal’ tracks in that tyre wear is more even: there are no ‘outside’ wheels covering more ground and taking more of the load.
But really it’s the simple pleasure of seeing one racing car going over another which makes them cool. And yet, perhaps surprisingly, it’s something we don’t see very much of. With these ten notable exceptions.
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Suzuka held its first Formula One race in 1987 but the track was completed in the sixties. Although its figure-of-eight configuration made it unusual at the time one early design was even more radical still, featuring a total of three crossovers.
Two of these were deleted from the final layout, yet it remains one of the most popular and challenging courses.
Yas Marina, United Arab Emirate
The Yas Marina circuit is built on a man-made island, which inevitably offers little in the way of elevation. The steepest section of track the drivers tackle is at the pit lane exit, which is routed underneath turn one, allowing the drivers to safely merge into the track away from the racing line.
If only as much imagination had been used to pen the rest of one of motor racing’s dullest circuits.
It’s 55 years since Monza’s crossover was last used in both directions by grand prix cars. The old ten-kilometre layout last held the Italian Grand Prix in 1961; a fateful event in which one driver and 14 spectators were killed.
The crossover remains and the banked track was recently resurfaced to prevent it surrendering completely to the undergrowth. However its days as a viable circuit are long behind it.
Monza isn’t Italy’s only track with a crossover, although the other course does not hold racing activity. Ferrari’s private Fiorano testing circuit is the hallowed ground where generations of the scarlet machines were proven and developed, at least until F1 embraced strict limits on the amount of testing which goes on.
However Ferrari do get to use their course occasionally, notably for a recent Pirelli wet tyre test.
Autodromo Juan Manuel Fangio, Argentina
Not one of Argentina’s major circuits, this track at Balcarce chiefly gets a mention for being named after the town’s most famous local: five-times world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
San Juan, Argentina
Few racing circuits crossovers feature such impressive examples of architecture as the bridge spanning the San Juan circuit in Argentina. The scenery is equally impressive, as the super-quick circuit winds its way past a steep valley. Also known as the Autodromo Eduardo Copello, it makes for a spectacular venue for the Super TC 2000 touring car series.
Oran Park, Australia
Australia’s Oran Park circuit in Syndey closed at the beginning of 2010. It had hosted the country’s popular touring car championship for decades as well as a couple of grands prix, run for Formula 5000 cars. However the land it sat on, including the tight crossover section, was sold to the regional government for a housing development. Its final Supercars race took place in 2008 (video above)
Many tracks have been referred to as the ‘mini-Nurburgring’ but it seems an especially appropriate description for Finland’s undulating Ahvenisto track. The country may have produced three world champions but has never had a round of the championship. However Keke Rosberg visited the circuit with Williams in the early eighties.
It remains in use and was recently visited by the Formula Four Northern European Zone series.
This unusual street circuit in Spain was used just once by the now-disbanded World Series by Renault during its first season. The event saw a demonstration run by Fernando Alonso in a current F1 car and the two Formula Renault 3.5 races were won by eventual champion Robert Kubica and future IndyCar champion Will Power.
There are many past examples of motorways and dual carriageways being closed to form racing circuits. Many of these included fly-overs such as Germany’s Dresden-Hellerau and Kolner Kurs and Venezuela’s meandering, 9.9-kilometre Circuito Los Proceres.
But surely tracks like these couldn’t exist in modern motor racing? Think again: Lithuania’s Palanga circuit comprises parts of the A11 and A13 motorways. Cars refuel during the annual 1000 kilometre race at a petrol station on one of the carriageways.
Over to you
Are there any other racing circuits with crossovers – past or present – which you have particularly enjoyed? And which current F1 track would benefit from having crossovers added?
Have your say in the comments
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