Finland's first purpose-built racing circuit, Keimola had an all-too brief history before financial difficulty and noise complaints brought proceedings to a close. Abandoned and derelict, the facilities stood for decades, slowly being vandalised and falling to disrepair.
The control tower remained visible from the motorway which ran adjacent to the track, seemingly a beacon to times past, as the track surface gradually broke up as nature took over.
After several mooted housing projects came and went, finally the developers moved in, building new apartments and relaying some of the roads along the rough route of the northern part of the track.
Keimola was found in 1965 at Vantaa near Helsinki by Curt Lincoln, the most famous Finnish racing driver of the 1950s. Modern in design, the track measured 3.3 km long with a 1 km main straight, and constant-radius corners with banking. The track was built in quite a short time and was opened in 1966. Later additions included a karting circuit (on which Mika Hakkinen and Mika Salo would take their first steps into motorsport) and a rallycross facility.
During its relatively short history, Keimola hosted several international racing events, including F2 races in 1966 and 1967 with drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt. Among those competing in the first race at the circuit was a young Frank Williams, back in the days in which he still harboured ambitions as a driver, prior to becoming a successful F1 team owner. Interserie events followed from 1969 to 1972 for some of the fastest sports cars ever built, with local hero Leo Kinnunen proving dominant in his Porsche 917 Can-Am car.
Curiously, the track failed to attract big crowds despite its location close to the centre of Helsinki and year-by-year the financial situation got steadily worse. Complaints about noise from nearby residents were a constant worry, while the energy crisis in the mid-1970s did little to help. By 1978 the circuit was in terminal decline, with its grandstands torn down due to safety fears. Racing continued but a visit later that year by council officials saw the circuit closed permanently after being told that sanitary facilities needed a dramatic upgrade. With no money to complete the works, Keimola's short history as Finland's most famous circuit came to an ignominious end.
Despite the closure, the track surface and pit buildings remained. For many years Keimola saw unofficial action as fans took their bikes and cars around the track. Of course, with no proper facilities, danger was ever-present. After a nearly fatal accident in 1988 involving a collision with an elk, sections of track were dug up to stop laps being completed. The enterprising illegal racers simply filled in the ditches with sand and continued on their way until the landowner brought in milling equipment to gouge the track surface in diagonal strips, rendering further racing impossible.
Since then the circuit has fallen substantially into decay, with trees poking up through the cracked track surface as the forest gradually takes back the land. The kart circuit continued in use for a few years but eventually it too closed, so that in latter years the only working part of the facility was the paddock area, which was fenced off and used a storage facility for old tyres. In 2004, vandals broke in and set light to the tyre dump, causing a spectacular inferno, which completely engulfed the former control tower, reducing it to just the bare graffiti-daubed concrete structure.
Enthusiasts had also hoped to revive the circuit for historic racing but, despite gaining some support, it was too costly a prospect.
Widening of the motorway alongside the track has seen some of the forest cut back, while a link road now encroaches on part of the back straight and south curve. For many years, as the motorists sped past, they probably have little idea that there was ever a circuit here...
More recently, housing development has begun, with roads being relaid over the rough route of the northern section of the track, with a new plaza named after Curt Lincoln created around the former control tower. This has been extensively renovated as a monument and art installation, with a new glass canopy with light displays overlooking the new Lincoln Square, which features a map of the track embossed into its surface. Some of the graffiti-strewn Texaco advertising has been preserved on the tower, serving as a further reminder of its racing past.
This is a historic circuit which is no longer in operation.
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Keimola was located just north of Helsinki, to the west of Highway 3 (E12). The remains of the track are slowly being converted to housing, but the Lincoln Square and the Keimola Tower are accessible from a new junction just north of the Neste motorway services, as well as by foot and cycle bridge from Keimola village itself, on the eastern side of the motorway.
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