The Smolensk Ring (Смоленское Кольцо) was set the first of the crop of new Russian circuits to make its case for international racing but - after the early years visits of the FIA European Truck Racing Series - has been confined to national level racing as rivals such as Moscow Raceway and Sochi have stolen the limelight. A case of 'what might have been' perhaps.
A fairly tight and twisty layout which doubles back on itself several times, the track sits among woodland next to a power station, whose power lines criss-cross the circuit.
Today the circuit remains a mainstay of the Russian Circuit Racing Series, at one stage hosting three events per season but more latterly serving as the season opener.
The project was designed to provide a boost to the Smolensk district in western Russia, with the aim of attracting high-tech industries, create employment and attract international visitors (and investment). A 23.4 hectare site was chosen near to the town of Safonovo and the settlement of Verkhnedneprovsky.
Groundwork began in 2007 to plans drawn up by Hermann Tilke. These called for a 2.1 mile / 3.4 km course which was significantly different to what was ultimately built. Progress was relatively slow, not helped by the harsh Russian winters, and at some point a decision was made to alter the layout to one which was much more compact, looping back on itself in the tight infield.
The first asphalt was laid in 2009 but the opening was postponed until mid-2010 due to delays in construction. The circuit finally opened to racing in August 2010, with its inaugural event being a round of the FIA European Truck Racing Championship. This was notable for being the first FIA-sanctioned circuit race in Russia and was set to be followed by the visit of the FIA GT3 European Championship in 2011.
The circuit duly underwent its final development to allow homologation to FIA Grade 2 standards in order to host the GT cars, but alas it became apparent that the race organisers lacked the necessary finances to put on an event of this scale and it was duly postponed for possible consideration in 2012. In the event, the series elected to go instead to Moscow Raceway and by 2013 it had become the FIA GT Series and the Smolensk Ring had faded from view.
Truck racing continued through to 2013, after which it too elected to race elsewhere, leaving the circuit to host only national level races. The Russian Touring Car Championships are now the highlights of the racing calendar. Sadly, it was during one of these races that Yuri Semenchev was killed in an accident at the circuit in August 2012 when he lost control of his Super Production car at the last corner and crashed into guardrail, his car overturning in the process and subjecting the 49-year-old to injuries which he succumbed to in hospital later than day.
Development plans continue for the circuit directors however; an 87-room hotel is planned for future years, with the project set to include a restaurant with 160 seats, a bar, conference room, and a rooftop, terrace with panoramic views of the race track.