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 1 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 has 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 quite the same level of elevation changes seen at the Spanish venue, although it is definitely not flat.
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 premature, especially given the relatively modest local infrastructure surrounding the circuit when compared with Sochi. Nevertheless, with big plans to expand the local amenities, this could still prove a contender for a future F1 race when the contract with Sochi finishes in 2025.
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 continued apace. 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. By September 2019 the circuit was complete, ready for its opening ceremony attended by, among others, the governor of St. Petersburg, Alexander Beglov, and Alexander Drozdenko, governor of the Leningrad region. More than 100 guests, among them many media representatives from Russia and neighbouring Finland, were also present.
Guests of honour were DTM stars including 2019 champion René Rast (Audi) and his colleagues Philipp Eng (BMW) and Daniel Juncadella (Aston Martin). At the ceremony, a deal was unveiled for Igora Drive to host the DTM from 2020 onwards, with the circuit set to host the third round on May 29 to 31, 2020. It marks the return to Russia of the touring car series since outings at Moscow Raceway between 2013 and 2017 and is thus the first confirmed international event for the new circuit.
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.
From St. Petersburg, take the roundabout at Mega Parnas Ikea to the Priozersk exit, highway A121. Next, follow the highway to the Novozhilovskaya intersection and turn right, following the signs for Igora Drive.