Circuit type: Permanent road course
The Igora Drive (Russian: Игора Драйв) complex near St Petersburg, is the latest modern circuit facility to spring up in Russia and perhaps its most impressive. Boasting an FIA Grade 2 circuit with multiple layout variations, alongside karting, motocross, rally, ring and winter driving courses and conference facilities, it is a massive undertaking which could transform motorsport in the surrounding area.
Little detail has been released about the project, which remains relatively unheard of outside of Russia, which is somewhat surprising given its scale. One of the largest investors in the project is billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, the main owner of the Rossiya Bank and a close ally of President Putin. It forms part of a wider sporting complex which includes the Igora Ski Resort, reportedly a favourite winter location for the Russian president.
According to Business Petersburg, the Igora track will cost about 11 billion rubles ($192 million), though it is not known how accurate that figure may be. Nonetheless, it does look set to be a lavish complex, with Hermann Tilke employed to design the whole facility, complete with trademark 'statement' architecture.
The main circuit layout bears more than a little resemblance to Tilke's Motorland Aragon design, though this may be no bad thing, as it is one of his more successful designs which promotes good racing. The Igora Drive circuit does not, however, appear to benefit from the elevation changes seen at the Spanish venue.
FIA President Jean Todt visited the construction site in December 2018, prompting immediate speculation that it could be set to host a Russian Formula One race, though that appears to be wide of the mark, especially given the relatively modest local infrastructure surrounding the circuit when compared with Sochi. More likely is that it will seek to attract some other international category, with initial photos of the construction showing kerbing being fitted that would be ideal for motorcycle racing. Again, no firm plans have been announced.
Construction began in 2016 though it wasn't until 2018 that the outline of the circuit really began to emerge from the earthworks, alongside some of the circuit buildings. Sadly, a serious accident occurred during May 2019, when a large concrete beam which formed part of the main grandstand collapsed onto workers below, injuring a number and resulting in a criminal investigation being opened for alleged safety rules violations.
Nevertheless, construction is continuing apace, with an anticipated opening scheduled for September 2019. The top layer of asphalt was laid in mid-July, with electronic and timekeeping installations to follow alongside completion of the pit and paddock buildings.
The Igora Drive facility is located in the Priozersk district of the Leningrad Oblast, near St Petersburg, Russia. St Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport is around 70 minute's drive to the south of the circuit.
The track is currently under construction, but is located between the A121 Highway and the Igora ski resort, around an hour's drive to the north of the city of St Petersburg.