The circuit of Navarra, located near the town of Los Arcos, is a multi-discipline sporting complex featuring a 2.4 mile road course, half-mile karting circuit, skid pan and off-road arena.
The track has a bit of everything and demands a balanced setup which can meet the competing demands of the fast and flowing opening sector, and the twisty and technical back half of the lap.
As well as three circuit variations (two of which can be run independently and simultaneously, the facility boasts well-appointed conferencing facilities, including a restaurant, bar and cafeteria, shopping area, convention room, terrace overlooking the track, outdoor playground and parking.
Plans for the circuit in northern Spain were first announced in 2007 by the private Samaniego Group. Funding difficulties saw the Government of Navarra step in and become majority owner and construction work began in 2009 at a cost of €50 million.
Opening in 2010, the track has been designed and built to the highest standards, achieving FIA Grade T1 and Grade 2 licences – meaning it can host F1 tests and all race categories below F1 – and FIM Grade B standards, allowing World Superbikes and below. The main circuit has three configurations, two of which can be run simultaneously.
Spectator facilities are good, with plenty of good viewing spots outside of the main grandstand, while photographers will be delighted to find that they have several areas set aside specifically for them, meaning photo opportunities are much better than at many circuits.
Navarra has become a popular testing venue, thanks to its good weather and close proximity to the French border. It has also become a staple on the GT racing scene, hosting rounds of the FIA GT and Blancpain Series, as well as the French GT Tour and the European Truck Racing Series.
In 2021 it became host to the World Superbikes Championship for the first time, added as an additional European round of the coronavirus-affected schedule. Ducati rider Scott Redding took the Superpole race and then followed up with a race one victory, before the second race was won by the Yamaha of eventual series champion Toprak Razgatlıoğlu. Riders hailed the layout as being fun, unique and full of character, with six-time champion Jonathan Rea describing the first corner as "like no other in the world." Despite this, it proved a one-off event for the championship, which did not return in 2022.
Government announces sale process
In May 2022, the Government of Navarra announced it was launching a tender process to sell the circuit, citing the high costs of managing and maintaining the facility. A four-month tender process, was launched by the public company Navarra Impulsa Cultura, Deporte y Ocio (NICDO for short, or Navarra Infrastructure, Culture, Sports and Leisure in English), to find a new buyer.
British-based MotorSport Vision (MSV) was announced as the winner in September 2022, adding Navarra to its roster of circuits, which includes Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park, Donington Park and Bedford Autodrome. It marks the second venture into mainland Europe for MSV, following the freehold purchase of a former military airbase in north-east France (Couvron). The site is currently being established as the world's first self-sufficient eco circuit.
As part of the agreement with NICDO, MSV agreed to invest in a wide programme of upgrades, including the complete resurfacing of the Navarra track.
MSV Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer said: "The acquisition in principle of Navarra circuit is tremendously exciting and another landmark in the expansion of MSV. It is an extensive and very impressive facility and our ambitious plans should enable the circuit to realise its full potential, with the intention of significantly increasing its levels of daily occupancy and the number of high profile race events.
"We believe a great strength of Navarra circuit is the region itself, and its proximity to beautiful cities such as Pamplona and Logrono, and of course the famous Rioja region. The scenery, food, wine and hospitality is outstanding, and will be a major attraction to those who come from outside of Navarra and indeed Spain. With our international presence, reputation and reach we expect to attract visitors and participants from the UK, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and beyond.
"We intend Navarra Circuit to become an internationally admired and successful circuit business attracting many new customers and visitors, as we have achieved with all our other circuits."
Redevelopment plans announced
MSV took over operations on November 1, 2022 and began setting its plans for the year ahead. Spanish GT, the CIV Velocidad, Spanish F4 Championship and additional action from TCR Spain and the Porsche Sprint Challenge Ibérica were among the categories in its first year of stewardship.
As is typical of MSV's approach at its circuits, a complete overhaul of the look and feel of the facility was undertaken, including a complete exterior redecoration of the race control tower and main pit buildings, including all the garage doors. All signage was revamped across the venue including the start/finish line gantry, pit buildings, and throughout the paddock and spectator areas.
Perhaps the most notable technology improvements came with an upgrading of the race control complex, with new screens and improved CCTV technology. The 360 degree VIP hospitality rooms above race control were also renovated.
Elsewhere a complete repair was made to the venue’s on-site irrigation reservoir. Results were immediate, with wildlife even returning to the man-made lake.
Major upgrades were also completed by August 2023 to the Paddock Bar in the main pits building, which was completely refurbished and refurnished.
Track overhaul sees layout changes
For 2024, even more ambitious plans were announced, with an extensive, multi-million Euro redevelopment programme, to be undertaken in two phases. Headline changes include major improvements to the circuit layout itself, substantial resurfacing work which will also remove the bumps, runoff upgrades and a general advancement of the venue’s safety features.
The two-stage approach to these works aims to ensure the minimum possible disruption to scheduled circuit activity, whilst also reducing the risk of weather-related delays.
The first phase of the project began in January 2024 with work scheduled for completion by mid-March, ahead of the 2024 race event season. This includes the season opening round of the British Superbikes Championship - a series promoted by MSV.
The second phase of works will begin in July and be completed by the end of August, a traditionally quiet time in Spain.
The most significant change will be the creation of a substantially revised and enhanced new layout, extending the existing 3.9km configuration to 4.3km by the completion of phase two. Designed in partnership with Driven International, these changes will make the circuit faster and more flowing, and therefore much more satisfying to ride and drive. During the initial phase one, Turn 6 will be re-profiled from a slow left-hander to a much faster corner and effectively a continuation of Turn 5, with trackside drainage and runoff being adjusted accordingly.
During the second phase of works a 650-metre extension will be created, featuring a new straight following Turn 10, and then a completely new sequence of corners. These will start with a banked hairpin at Turn 11, which will also create more overtaking opportunities. This will lead to a new and challenging fast right-left sequence of corners through Turns 12 and 13. The new section of the circuit will be fitted with new kerbs, with runoff areas and safety features tailored to the updated layout.
Other key changes during the ongoing first phase of works include a major resurfacing, with the removal of some long established bumps, particularly at the start/finish line and on the approach to Turn 5. The resurfacing will extend from before the start/finish line up to Turn 2, and then from the approach to Turn 5 to after Turn 7. The runoff area at the existing Turn 13 will also be extended during the early stages of the work, with barrier realignment planned too.
More general changes planned for the first phase include the installation of EM light panels as part of a wider upgrade to the marshalling and safety systems. These are being installed alongside an improved venue CCTV network and the progressive replacement and upgrade of marshal posts.
Turning the circuit "from good to great"
MSV's hands-on Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer has been instrumental in the layout changes, having lapped the track in a GT3 car soon after acquiring it and feeling improvements could be made.
He explained: "It was great fun, with some exciting elevation changes, but it was clear to me that it could be even better by changing the layout to make it faster and more flowing – there were too many slow corners. I then worked on ideas for a revised layout, and having sketched these out worked with Driven International to refine them.
"We then went a stage further and got Driven to produce on-board simulations with F4, F1 and GT3 cars, to ensure that the new corners would achieve what I wanted for a range of cars, which was particularly for the new T12/T13 S bend to be really fast, just requiring a lift on the throttle, or a light brake – these are always the most exhilarating corners to drive!
“It was also clear from talking to customers that removing old bumps in key areas was a priority, so we’ll be resurfacing those in the first phase, using the latest technology to achieve a smooth racing surface.
“These changes will really help to establish Circuito de Navarra as not just a good circuit, but a great circuit, for drivers and riders alike. I can’t wait to try the new layout in September myself, and more importantly hear the reactions from our customers using it!"