Circuit Ricardo Tormo
The 'circuit within a stadium' at Cheste, near Valencia, is a modern marvel; a theatre where racing battles are fought out in clear view of every grandstand seat. Most famous as a MotoGP and World Superbike venue, the circuit has also hosted GP2, DTM, WTCC and World Series by Renault events, as well as being a popular Formula One winter testing venue.
The circuit has the distinction of being one of the few permanent facilities to host a Formula E race, albeit on a modified layout when it was added to the coronavirus-affected calendar in 2021.
Now homologated to full Grade 1 status, it remains to be seen if there is a desire for Formula One to return to Valencia using the permanent circuit.
The track was built in 1999 by the Government of Valencia to become the nerve centre of the local motorsport industry, forming a hub and training centre for young Spanish talent on two or four wheels.
The circuit is named in honour of Ricardo Tormo, the two-time 50cc Motorcycle World Champion whose promising career was cut short by a horrific testing accident in 1984. A native of Valencia, Tormo had battled leukaemia during his enforced early retirement, succumbing to the disease the year before the circuit opened.
It's fitting then that the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, as it is officially titled, should have seen so much Spanish success over the years. Hosting MotoGP event every year since its opening, home riders have dominated the winners lists. Sete Gibernau started the ball rolling with his 500cc victory for Suzuki back in 2001. The following year Dani Pedrosa kick-started his own very successful relationship with Ricardo Tormo when he won the 125cc Grand Prix on a Honda, moving up to take further wins in the 250cc class in 2004-05.
In 2007 Dani claimed his first MotoGP victory at the Valencia track, repeating the feat in 2009 and again in 2012 and 2017 to become the all time most successful rider at the track. Not to be left out, Jorge Lorenzo won for Yamaha in 2010 and 2013, while Marc Marquez took the spoils in 2014 and 2019. A wealth of other Spanish riders have also won in the lower classes, including Hector Barbera, Héctor Faubel, Julian Simon, Nico Terol and Maverick Viñales, meaning Spaniards have won 29 of the 69 Grand Prix events held here to the end of 2021, more than double any other nation.
The Cheste track has several layouts, running anti-clockwise with varying lengths. The main Grand Prix course is just over 4km long and comprises five right handed corners, eight left handers and a 650m main straight. Although the track occupies a compact area, the pit complex contains 48 garages whilst the stadium style grandstands can seat up to 120,000 spectators.
The circuit has also been a popular pre-season testing venue for the Formula E racers, using the national circuit but with a temporary chicane added at the end of the pit straight in both 2018 and 2019. With a need to find new venues for its coronavirus-affected calendar in 2021, the circuit again played host, though this time with a modified full grand prix circuit in use. The traditional concrete barriers were added at key spots to give a flavour of the street race format, including at a tightened Curva Nieto, which was extended out into the traditional asphalt run off area. A tight chicane was also added after the final turn, making partial use of the area next to the pit lane entrance.
In 2021, the circuit was also homologated to full FIA Grade 1 status, meaning it can host Formula One races as well as general testing. This could be a shrewd move, should the coronavirus-disrupted motorsport calendars need another substitute race in future years.