Ralf Schumacher, Williams, Suzuka, 2002

Top ten: Racing circuits with crossovers

Top TenPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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, Japan

Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2015
Daniil Kvyat accelerates out of Degner Two beneath the track at Suzuka

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

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Yas Marina, 2014
Max Verstappen passes through Yas Marina’s unique pit lane exit tunnel

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.

Monza, Italy

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monza, 2016
Lewis Hamilton blasts underneath the old banked oval track at Monza

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.

Fiorano, Italy

Esteban Ocon, Ferrari, Fiorano, 2014
Esteban Ocon passes under the Fiorano flyover during his 2014 test for Ferrari

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)

But while Austrlia lost its crossover circuit one remains in New Zealand: the Highlands facility near Cromwell. Over in the USA the short-lived Paramount Ranch course closed after just two years.

Ahvenisto, Finland

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.

Bilbao, Spain

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.

Palanga, Lithuania

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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  • 16 comments on “Top ten: Racing circuits with crossovers”

    1. While unkown to the the mainstream motorsport fans around the world, the Juan Manuel Fangio racetrack in Balcarce was one of the classics in Turismo Carretera’s calendar, alongside Buenos Aires’s “Oscar y Juan Galvez”. The surface kept evolving as the track is right in the mountains and the terrain is constantly moving, which made it bumpy and slippery. The place is called “La Barrosa” (The muddy) because of the characteristics of the soil and the precipitation which often affected the race. The location is also spectacular because there are no grandstands, you sit in the mountains and you see the whole track from everywhere.

      The track itself is very, very fast, with long straights followed by constant radious corners. The elevation changes made the run to turn 2 one of the fastest of the year, and it was very dangerous because the safety standards weren’t up to date (at all). In 2011 it was resurfaced and that made it worse. The track was grippier and smoother, and there was a massive accident in practice. A car, driven by Agustin Canapino, failed to brake, plowed through the barriers and fell from the cliff. The car was destroyed.

      As usual in these sort of things, the dangers of the track were overlooked by the authorities and the race went ahead. With 2 laps to go, a backmaker crashed into a tyre wall after the bridge and stopped in the middle of the track right as the leaders were about to lap him. One of the contenders, a young guy called Guido Falaschi lost control trying to avoid the backmaker, crashed into the opposite tyre wall and also stopped in the middle of the track. The resulting chaos, within a cloud of dust, made it impossible for Nestor Girolami (the current STC2000 champion) to stop and he crashed Guido hard on one side. Guido didn’t make it, and the track has not been used since.

    2. While they were still building CotA I came up with a crossover design for it. Basically, you hang a left at T3, T12 becomes T4 where you turn right onto Longhorn straight. The hairpin (T11) becomes T5, then you run the esses backwards, which takes you under the T3-T4 overpass and into the stadium section.

      With the natural elevation it would have been pretty easy to do and the flow looks like it would be very good. I still have the plan image I made. Too bad I can’t post it here. You’d probably get a kick out of it.

      1. @henslayer I remember that. I think it would have made the track better, to be honest.

        Do you think you could link it on imgur or something? I think I lost it when I saved it.

        1. Let’s see if this link shows up.

          http://oi39.tinypic.com/xp1li8.jpg

          1. Yep, linkage successful. :)

    3. I live in Lithuania and can tell, that Palanga circuit (it’s not a circuit, just once-a-year-made-track) is a joke safety-wise. They use concrete blocks to reduce impacts for drivers, but once it almost ended in tears, because brakes failed and one guy just smashed straight into the concrete block.

    4. There was originally supposed to be a crossover racetrack in the Deodoro neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro; it was supposed to be across the street from one of the Olympic villages.

    5. I had absolutely no idea there were so many! Heaps to digest, looking forward to what others the comments can up with too.

    6. “The event saw a demonstration run by Fernando Alonso in a current F1 car”

      Isn’t that Franck Montagny @keithcollantine?

    7. Pains me to think f1 has so many grand options to go racing and yet choose a remote location in non racing passionate countries to build more tilkedromes.

    8. Fun article.
      That track in Bilbao looks pretty fun and infinitely better than the Valencia street track.
      I need a game that features the Finish track!

      1. @eurobrun You can get it as an addon track for Assetto Corsa. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks great.

    9. Can you please add track maps to this article?

      1. Seconded! There is a track map on the Bilbao WSbR video, which is cool. I’d really like to see the track map for the early Suzuka concept with 3 cross-overs, sounds awesome!

        Also, had no idea that Kubica raced Will Power! Retro-tastic.

    10. Balcarce is an interesting one because the crossover loops inside rather than outside. Instead of evening out the number of left and right hand corners this massively increases the ratio or right to left handers.

    11. Great list Keith, but personally I think you have left the best one out! Parcmotor Castellolí near Barcelona is a great track. Check it out!!

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