Short, tight and twisty it may be but Jyllandsringen has been the epicentre of Danish racing since it first opened in the 1960s.
Extended in the early 2000s, it has been the host of all of Denmark's major series as well as a host of driver training and testing activities.
The story began in 1966, when contractor SK Jensen combined forces with racing driver Ole Hansen to build the racetrack at Resenbro, near Silkeborg. The compact track was just over a mile in length thanks to multiple switchbacks – but compared favourably with Denmark's only other permanent circuit at Roskilde. The first race meeting took place on May 15, 1966 and local star Tom Belsø kept the crowds happy with a class victory in one of the races in a Volvo PV544. Later in that first year, the Jyllandsringen held an endurance race (only the second ever on Danish soil), won over three hours by Christian V. Nellemann and Hans Trap-Nielsen.
Criticism by drivers that the course was too tight and twisty led to the first circuit revisions in time for the 1967 season. A new piece of asphalt bypassed the first of the infield loops, creating a slightly kinked back straight, albeit a very short one. The lap remained fairly stop-start but it was at least a little quicker, if shorter. The original long variant remained in occasional use until 1976, when it was quietly forgotten about.
German Formula 3 racer Kurt Ahrens was the first to taste victory on the new short course, while Reine Wisell rounded off the second season of competition with an F3 win over Ronnie Peterson and Ole Vejlund. The circuit began hosting an annual Grand Prix for sportscars in the late 1960s, with winners including Steen Axelsson in a Porsche 906 Carrera, Briton Barrie Smith in a Chevron B8 and former Formula 1 driver Jo Bonnier in a Lola T210 in 1970.
Alongside sportscar races and the touring car classes that made up the bulk of the racing action, single seat racing arrived with the Jysk Grand Prix for Formula 3 cars in 1971, Swede Ulf Svensson beating compatriot Conny Andersson, both in Brabham BT35s. With Dane Tom Belsø riding high in the F5000 championships, it was perhaps natural that Jyllandsringen should be selected for the European championship in 1973. The high-powered cars were probably ill-suited to the tight confines of the circuit but the crowds cheered on Belsø and fellow Dane Jac Nelleman to fourth and sixth places respectively, while Ian Ashley steered his Lola T330-Chevrolet to victory.
FDM takes ownership
In 1974, circuit founder SK Jensen was killed in an accident and his widow chose to sell the circuit to the Federation of Danish Motorists (Forenede Danske Motorejere or FDM). Thus began a long tradition of hosting driver training at the circuit alongside traditional motor racing activities – with the additional headache of the fuel crisis, it was probably this diversification which saved the circuit from closing altogether.
International visitors were again prominent in 1976 when Jyllandsringen featured as a round of the European Formula Ford Championships. English driver and future TV personality Tiff Needell won the race at the head of a 50-strong starting field. Soren Aggerholm was first dane home in seventh. Over the years a number of other future superstars cut their teeth racing in the junior single seaters at Jyllandsringen; John Nielsen and Kris Nissen both enjoyed success here, while a certain Ayrton Senna cleaned up in his only visit in the European Championship for Formula Ford 2000. Several years later it was JJ Lehto's turn to shine, winning the same race that a young Tom Kristensen was taken out in an accident at the first corner. At the same meeting an even younger Mika Hakkinen won the Formula Ford 1600 encounter.
In 1990, the Jyllandsringen expanded with the addition of a new driver training centre to the south of but separate to the main circuit. This expanded the activities that could be run at the track and saw it designated a centre for elite sport.
The rise of popularity of tin-top racing at the end of the 1990s saw the Jyllandsringen a centre of activities for the new Danish Touring Car Championship (DTC). Drivers such as Jan Magnussen, Jason Watt and Casper Elgaard would ply their trade regularly at the circuit, which formed the basis of most of the championship rounds.
Circuit extension boosts appeal
It was DTC organiser Peter Elgaard who first saw the possibilities to create a longer track by combining the existing circuit with portions of the driver training facility to create a new 2.3km course. He first mooted the idea in 1996, but it took several years to get through numerous planning applications and satisfy complaints from locals about noise intrusion. Finally, in May 2003 permission was granted and work could begin. Three months later - at the Grand Prix Denmark - the then Minister of Culture, Brian Mikkelsen, cut the ribbon to declare Denmark's longest circuit open. After several laps as a passenger in a Ferrari F50 with Jan Magnussen at the wheel, the track was ready for racing.
This was the beginning of a golden era for Danish touring car racing, as the circuit hosted a DTC which was beginning to gain an international profile. Alongside the local stars came drivers such as Jens Edman, Markko Martin and James Thompson, boosting the popularity further. In 2010, the DTC merged with the Swedish Touring Car Championship to form the Scandinavian Touring Car Cup, bringing a big grid of S2000 tourers to the Jyllandsringen. Sadly, from 2013 the championship has focused exclusively on Sweden, so the gap in the Danish racing scene was filled by a new DTC – the Danish Thundersport Championship for American-style sportscars. Very popular with the fans, once again the Jyllandsringen is the centre of the action, hosting multiple championship rounds.