Circuit type: Permanent road course
Finland's first purpose-built racing circuit, Keimola was founded 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 an 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.
Over the years there have been several plans to destroy the remains of the track in order to replace it with a residential area, however this is so far yet to happen. Enthusiasts had also hoped to revive the circuit for historic racing but, despite gaining some support, it appears there is little chance of this happening.
Today, 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. As the motorists speed past, they probably have little idea that there was ever a circuit here...
Keimola was located just north of Helsinki, to the west of Highway 3 (E12). The remains of the track are just north of the Neste motorway services at Keimola and are accessible by foot and cycle bridge from Keimola village itself, on the eastern side of the motorway.