A car enthusiast's wild fantasy made real, the Ascari Race Resort is a private track which allows the well-heeled to indulge their passion for speed in a fairy-tale setting among southern Spain's magnificent Andalusian mountains.
A resort in the truest sense, the facility has a full range of amenities, including a luxury hotel, health spa, beauty centre, driving range, clay shooting range, azure swimming pool and bars. Should the main track not be enough for petrolheads there are also quadbike and go-kart tracks and, if all this still doesn't completely satisfy, helicopter pads can whisk passengers to the nearest beach in 15 minutes.
This mad-cap project is the brainchild of Klaas Zwaart, a man who doesn't do things by halves. He made his fortune as a highly successful entrepreneur and oil industry engineer and indulged his passion for speed by first going racing - in 1995 he finished third in British GT, while also competing in the BOSS Euroseries for high powered formula cars, where he is a multiple series champion, racing his ex-Benetton and Jaguar F1 cars. His next effort was to buy the small British sportscar manufacturer Ascari (named after Alberto Ascari) and create his own supercar, the extremely rapid KZ1. A racing version swiftly followed, as did a Le Mans prototype.
With an impressive collection of cars in his arsenal, Zwaart came to the conclusion that, for owners of supercars, it was becoming increasingly hard to find somewhere to drive them safely in the manner intended by their makers. While you could hire a circuit or take part in a track day event, often these lacked the kind of facilities that the super-rich were accustomed to. The solution? Build an exclusive private resort dedicated to speed.
He considered a variety of locations, including near to the Ascari factory in Aberdeen, before selecting the south of Spain as the perfect home thanks to its climate, accessibility and scenery. Land near Ronda in the popular Málaga resort area was purchased and construction on Zwaart's masterpiece began in 2000. He designed the circuit himself, using the contours of the land as a starting point and then creating a layout inspired by some of the greatest corners on the greatest circuits in the world.
"We took a long time to design the circuit and to get all the things in place like safety, excitement, difficulty etc," explains Zwaart. "We moved, in total, 5,500 truckloads of earth in through the gates to construct the circuit. It was quite an intense job but obviously we wanted the quality, because sometimes in winter we can get 10 degrees below at night, but during the day we can have 40 degrees celsius in August. So we have something like 50 degrees of change in the temperature, which is a hell of a lot, but we have had no movement in the track surface whatsoever. It's one of the best [surface] qualities that anyone's ever seen, so we did our best and it paid off."
The circuit opened in 2002 and immediately proved a hit. It's a true challenge, packing in 13 right-hand and 13 left-hand turns, elevation and camber changes and at several points the quickest cars and bikes can get a wheel or two airborne. Along its 5.4 km you'll find echoes of the Karrousel, Eau Rouge, Paddock Hill Bend and even a banked corner which emulates some of the USA's best rovals. The latter corner apparently cost an ex-F1 driver his lunch when he tried at speed in a Grand Prix car, such were the G-forces generated...
Exclusivity is the key here though - everything has been designed to attract the well-heeled who want to indulge their passion for speed in complete privacy. The fees alone help to reinforce this - a 25 year club membership costs an eye-watering €150,000 with an annual fee of €10,000, though this does at least entitle you and three family members to 50 track days a year and 12 guest driver passes. Cheaper packages are available, but they'll still not leave you with much change out of €40,000 on a three-year seasonal deal...
"The philosophy behind this circuit is to give people the opportunity to play with their supercars - or our cars for that matter, right up to Formula One level - in a club environment, without any public walking around, without any paparazzi etc," says Zwaart. "Anyone can make a total fool of themselves here if they want to - it will not leak out to the press! It is totally protected here, we have lots of security, so any celebrity can come here in total safety without being disturbed by anyone seeking autographs or pictures."
On site is a supercar maintenance facility, which can store up to 450 vehicles for their owners to use on track, all fettled to perfection by Zwaart's team of specialist mechanics. The circuit also has its own impressive fleet of vehicles, from a "beginner" race-prepped Lotus Elise to ex-Formula One cars (including a three-seat version) and, inevitably, the Ascari GT and Le Mans racers.
The track is also open for one-off experiences, race schools and corporate events and can cater for up to 400 people. Ducati used it as the backdrop for the launch of its Monster S2R in 2006, while it was also the venue for the launch party for Sony's Gran Turismo 6. That's probably the most likely way most people will get the chance to take a spin here - don't think you'll be able to rock up to the gates and wander around: if your name's not down on the list, you're not getting in...