Tierp Arena has had a short, if slightly turbulent history, serving as Sweden's fastest racing circuit and being one of Europe's highest specification drag racing strips.
Converted from the runway of a former military airbase, the drag strip expanded into circuit racing in 2012, in time to host the prestigious STCC. After two editions, the touring cars moved elsewhere when financial difficulties set in and the track went bankrupt.
It emerged under the same ownership as Sturup Raceway and a new rallycross course was built in 2019, necessitating a change to the road course layout. The new management has switched focus away from racing to track days, driver training and manufacturer promotional days. Today the major events are focused on the drag strip and rallycross arena.
The origins of the facility, near the town of the same name in Uppsala County, began as a military airbase. Construction began in October 1939, and within a year three concrete 700 metre runways were in operation. During the 1950s, one of the runways was extended to 2 km as part of Sweden's Cold War defenses, with barracks and training areas expanding greatly.
The airbase became surplus to military requirements at the end of the Cold War and was finally closed in 1999. After a decade of disuse, plans were announced to create a major new drag racing facility on the southern half of the main runway, with the northern portion renovated and retained as a landing strip for light aircraft. The facility would boast a 20,000 seat grandstand and hospitality centre, designed to wrap around one end of the drag strip to offer fantastic views of the action.
The new Tierp Arena opened to great fanfare in May 2011 and two months later hosted the European Drag Racing Championships for the first time. Spurred on by this initial success, the track's operators decided to add a racing circuit, which would use existing return roads, parts of the runway not used by the drag strip and a temporary pit facility. The TTA Elite Series was an enthusiastic supporter and announced it would be holding the seventh round of its new series - a breakaway from the STCC touring car championships - in 2012.
Fast but furious
The new circuit certainly proved fast - if a little dangerous in spots. From the grid, the cars negotiated a right-left chicane between the concrete retaining walls of the drag strip, while a tyre-lined chicane on the back straight proved fiddly to negotiate and caused more problems than it solved.
The first chicane showed it could bite hard if things went wrong during qualifying for the race, when Alx Danielsson crashed hard when a wing mount broke, sending his Citroen hard into the concrete retaining wall. He broke several ribs and had to sit out the rest of the meeting as the car was utterly destroyed. Ironically, Danielsson was among the first to sample the new circuit at a press day, describing it as "tight, fast and slippery" - perhaps later adding "painful" to that list.
In the race, Jocke Mangs started from pole and held the lead for the majority, until a mistake allowed Linus Ohlsson past for the victory. His mood did not improve when he discovered he had been disqualified for ignoring a drive-through penalty relating to a mistake by the team on the grid prior to the race....
For the following year, the TTA Series had settled its differences with the STCC and the series merged. Tierp retained its place on the new STCC series calendar, though the experiences of the first year prompted changes to the circuit. The chicane on the main straight was reprofiled and straightened, making it essentially flat out for the STCC cars. The theory was to lessen the chance of cars crashing at an angle into the concrete, though given Danielsson's crash was caused by a mechanical failure, it is debatable how this modification would make much difference if similar problems occurred again, particularly as it is now higher speed. Meanwhile, the fiddly chicane on the back straight was removed altogether, while the penultimate corner was tightened into a 90-degree right hander.
The race served as the penultimate round of the championship but would prove the title decider. Volvo's Thed Björk taking the pole position ahead of team-mate Robert Dahlgren. However, in the race Richard Göransson fought past in his BMW and motored onto victory, followed by team-mate Fredrik Larsson. Björk was content to round out the podium in third place, safe in the knowledge that the result would earn him the title.
New owners refocus
Unfortunately, by October of that year, the circuit was in financial trouble. Poor weather earlier in the year has led to the cancellation of several drag events, meaning that income from ticket sales was only half of what had been projected. With outstanding debts from the initial construction needing to be paid and no further bank loans available, the management filed for bankruptcy.
With no immediate rescuers coming to the fore with acceptable bids, the receivers chose to sell the facility at public auction in March 2014. The winning bid, of around 20 million krone, was made by the Sånna Förvaltning company, headed by former rally champion and racer Cemoni Ohlsson, who also owns the Sturup Raceway in the south of the country.
A new rallycross course was built in 2019, which cut across the runway return leg, requiring the laying of a new back end to the road course. This effectively ending the circuit's use for racing, though it remains in busy use for track days and other non-motorsport events.