Address: Ahvenisto Race Circuit, Poltinahontie 47, 13100 Hämeenlinna, Finland
PH: +358 40 0817002
Circuit type: Permanent road course
Ahvenisto is something of a hidden gem, nestling in the Finnish forests and these days only known by local racers but which once attracted the top stars of car and bike racing. Distinctive by being twisty and narrow with multiple elevation changes, the circuit is also one of a handful around the world to feature a figure-of-eight crossover layout.
The track was opened on 15 July 1967 and was the second permanent purpose built circuit in Finland, following in the footsteps of Keimola. The 1.783 miles (2.870 km) course near Hämeenlinna marries sweeping curves along with several hairpin bends and, while not exactly high-speed, was certainly a roller-coaster challenge. Add in an all-too-obvious lack of run-off at several spots and the high forest pines which almost completely envelop the track and you can be forgiven for finding the place somewhat claustrophobic.
Ahvenisto,'s most famous race was the second to be held on the course, when the Formula 2 cars visited on 5 September 1967 for the 'I Hämeenlinnan ajot', in what would turn out to be the only international car race held at the venue. As was typical for such events, local aces mixed with the established stars such as Jim Clark , Graham Hill , Jack Brabham and Niki Lauda. The race was won by Jochen Rindt in a Brabham BT23 ahead of Jack Brabham's Brabham BT23C and Jim Clark's Lotus 48. The supporting Formula 3 race saw a battle between Finnish and Swedish drivers, with Sweden's Freddy Kottulinsky taking the win. Other notable entrants included Leo Kinnunen, Ronnie Peterson and Reine Wisell.
Big name stars would visit again in the early 1970s, this time on two wheels. The circuit was chosen as part of the then new FIM Formula 750 races, which at one stage looked likely to become the next 'big thing' championship until it fizzled out at the end of the decade. From 1973-75 Ahvenisto featured on the calendar of series which variously held World or European Championship status. Barry Sheene among the stars of the first race, though the local Finns dominated, taking the wins on each of the three occasions the motorbikes raced.
While no further international circuit races have been held at Ahvenisto, between 1980 and 1999 a total of 18 FIA European Rallycross Championship events were organized on a modified, mixed-surface version of the circuit, with some of the run-offs converted into gravel sections.
Despite the rather limited viewing opportunities afforded spectators due to the preponderance of trees, the circuit has at times attracted some rather impressive crowd figures. The track reached its crowd record in 1985, when over 40,000 people arrived to watch Tähtien kisat ("The Race of Stars"), in which both Formula 1 and World Rally Championship stars from around the world, including Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Timo Salonen and Michele Mouton, gathered at Ahvenisto to race in identical and near-standard BMW cars.
While the official lap record stands at 1:13.226 and was achieved by Marko Nevalainen in a Formula 3 car on September 16, 2000, the 1982 Formula One World Champion Keke Rosberg managed an unofficial lap record of 1:10.000 during his 1984 show run in a Williams FW08C Formula 1 car. Meanwhile, two-time Formula One world champion Mika Häkkinen briefly held the lap record for the Carrera Cup class, recording a time of 1:19.905 during his visit to Ahvenisto on May 29, 2004 in a Porsche 911 GT3, but was surpassed by a 1:18.923 from Fredrik Ros the following year.
One tragic footnote is that the track was the location of Finland's worst helicopter accident in 1984, when a pilot lost control while landing and crashed into the crowd during a race meeting. Five spectators were killed and another 26 injured.
Today the track mostly hosts races in national and Nordic championships and cups, including the Finnish Touring Car Championship, NEZ Racing Championship, Nordic Supercar, Finnish Rallycross Championship and Historic Race Finland.
The Ahvenisto Race Circuit is located in the city of Hämeenlinna in southern Finland. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is just over an hour's drive to the south, while Tampere-Pirkkala Airport is around 55 minutes to the north.
The circuit is located on Poltinahontie in the western outskirts of the city, close to the major out-of-town shopping parks and a short distance from junction 26 of the Helsinki-Tampere motorway (E12).