Finland’s latest motor racing circuit has been designed from the outset to allow the return of top-level international racing to the country for the first time since the early 1980s.
Having secured the rights to the Finnish Grand Prix from championship promoter's Dorna, MotoGP makes it World Championship debut in 2022.
The circuit takes its name from the Kymi River (Kymijoki), in the valley of which the race track is located.
Plans for the facility, located at Tillola near to the city of Kouvola, were first mooted in 2006, with the Pohjola Racing organisation making an official announcement in 2009. With the closure of a paper mill, the local government was keen to encourage new projects that would boost employment and the KymiRing complex fitted the bill. The project aims to create a new place for motorsport with infrastructure that will allow the hosting of significant events while also offering a year-round safe environment for driver training on two and four wheels.
Apex Circuit Design was brought on board in 2010, to review the initial circuit designs, taking into account FIA guidelines, optimised land use, reduced material quantities and to employ ideas to establish greater commercial yield and revenue. The track's master plan was prepared with FIA funding under the Facility Improvement Programme 2010.
The 4.6km main track has been designed in accordance with FIA Grade 2 classification, but by modifying the safety areas, it could be adapted to meet F1 requirements. On the two-wheeled side, the track meets the requirements of FIM Grade A classification. One aim of the design has been to take advantage of the shape of the undulating terrain; the circuit provides an 18-metre difference in height between the highest and lowest points. The camber of the bends varies at different points of the track with a maximum of 10% on three bends increasing mechanical grip for adjacent driving and overtaking possibilities.
The main track has undergone several design changes during its construction phase, with the final version negotiated in a clockwise direction over 17 bends, 11 to the right and 6 to the left, each different in terms of speed and radius (some combining different radii), also offering smooth and exciting driving stretches with four discernible key overtaking points. While shorter 'East' and 'West' variants have been designed, as of 2019, only the East GP circuit link road has been constructed and it remains to be seen if the West GP circuit is introduced at a later date.
Alongside the Grand Prix circuit are a separate kart track and off-road course, while the rallycross course is located in front of the pit building. While motorsport may grab the headlines, it is not the only activity at the facility. A dedicated driver-training facility has been designed by Alex and Franz Wurz's Test & Training company, which will offer diverse training possibilities from passenger cars to heavy goods vehicles, buses and motorcycles.
In what is the largest facility of its kind in Scandinavia (overtaking Norway's Vålerbanen), the driver training facility features sections for practising driving in slippery conditions, tracks for practising negotiating obstacles, skid simulation and speed displays.
Construction on the complex was underway from 2016 and throughout 2017, 2018 and into 2019, with a MotoGP test scheduled for August 19-20. Despite doubts it would be ready in time from some quarters, a gargantuan effort meant the premier class test riders were duly able to roll into town as planned. Fittingly, the first rider out on track and the man to make history as the first MotoGP rider to lap the KymiRing was local hero Mika Kallio, aboard his KTM RC16 that was fitted with the very latest KTM chassis. All six test riders eventually got a taste of the circuit, despite conditions being far from ideal with rain falling throughout the day.
The circuit was set make its full MotoGP debut in 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing the cancellation of the event. After missing the cut in 2021 due to continuing travel restrictions, the circuit finally makes its long-awaited World Championship debut in 2022. It remains to be seen what other categories may also feature in the future, with the likes of the DTM, WTCC and perhaps even the GT World Series Europe potential targets.