Buenos Aires

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Circuit Overview

The international motor racing circuit in Buenos Aires owes its existence to the patronage of a president and during its long history, politics have played a major part as its success has waxed and waned. After a period of neglect, the circuit is now receiving welcome investment once again from the city authorities.

Built as a public works project by Argentine President Juan Perón, the circuit was originally titled the Autódromo 17 de Octubre (the date of Loyalty Day) until Perón's overthrow. It. was subsequently named in honour of famed Argentine racing brothers, Juan Gálvez and Oscar Alfredo Gálvez.

The only Argentine circuit to host Formula One, today the circuit is host to a range of national competitions, including the ever popular Turismo Carretera and Super TC2000.  From 2021 it has also hosted rounds of the TCR South America championship.

Circuit History

The circuit was born out of a conversation between then President Juan Perón and racing aces Luigi Villoresi, Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilan Gonzalez. While the Argentine racing scene was strong, with a series of 'Temporada' races being held across the country on closed public roads, Perón was keen to know what would help boost it further and draw greater international attention. The answer, they said, was a permanent road course.

With a speed that only a head of state can induce, a parcel of swampland on the outskirts of the city in the Lugano district was identified and construction began on a new circuit. From the outset, the ambition was high, with the new autodrome built to the highest contemporary standards, with large grandstands and pit buildings and a total of 10 possible layout variations. At its entrance, Peron had a large white arch built to greet racegoers, named in honour of the 'father of the Argentine Navy', Almirante William Brown.

F1 arrives and Fangio stacks up the wins

The President's influence continued with the choice of name for the new course, which was known as the Autódromo 17 de Octubre in commemoration of the day in 1945 that Perón had been released from captivity. Three races made up the first meeting on March 9, 1952, the most important of which was the Formula Libre race for the Perón Cup, won by Fangio in a Ferrari 166FL on Circuit No. 4. The following year came the Grand Prix, using Circuit No. 2, with victory going to Alberto Ascari and Ferrari, thought the event was completely overshadowed when Giuseppi Farina lost control and slid off into a group of spectators who had broken through the police cordon to line the trackside. Nine people died and more than 40 were injured in what was the circuit's blackest day.

Fangio restored a sense of pride by completing a run of four consecutive victories between 1954 and '57 and the Grand Prix enjoyed a notable first in 1958, when Stirling Moss won in the Cooper-Climax, the first victory for a rear-engined car. Formula One would continue until 1960, after which the retirements of Fangio and Gonzalez combined with an increasingly unstable government led to a loss of interest in the race and the Grand Prix circus moved on elsewhere.

Sportscars also played their part in the early years, with a 1000km race recalling some of the early Temporada races by incorporating the autodrome and the public roads outside the course. Racers lapped most of Circuit No 1, before heading out onto the Avenida General Paz highway at the hairpin, where the fast straights were joined at either ends by hairpins formed from a roundabout and an overpass. In 1954, the course was run in an anti-clockwise direction (the opposite direction to usual on the autodrome) while the races in the 1956, '58 and '60 ran in the normal clockwise route. The 1957 race saw a further extended course, with an additional section of motorway added towards the airport.

In 1955, Perón was forced into exile and the circuit became known simply as the Autódromo Municipal. Through the 1960s, the circuit remained a hub for national motorsport but was largely shunned by the international community. However, plans were afoot to bring new attention to the track and in 1968 a new extension was added, diverting the course around a lake and introducing two lengthy straights and a high speed corner. The new section added a further four possible circuit variations, though the superstitious circuit directors opted to name these as Circuits 11, 12, 14 and 15, omitting 'unlucky' 13 altogether.

Sportscar crash highlights sparks changes

Sportscars made their return in 1971 when the 1,000 km race was revived as a round of the World Championship, using Circuit No. 15. The race is remembered for the terrible crash which claimed the life of Ignazio Giunti. Unsighted by a backmarker, he ploughed into the broken down Matra of Jean-Pierre Beltoise which was being pushed back to the pits by its driver. In front of packed grandstands, the hapless Giunti was trapped in the car which was now well ablaze, giving him no chance of survival.

While the circuit layout itself was not a particular factor in the crash, inadequate marshalling may have been, as no warning flags appeared to have been displayed to alert drivers to the slow moving car on track. Circuit bosses were also spooked by the fact that an even greater tragedy could easily have occurred as the busy pit lane did not have a protecting wall. It was decided that the circuit would undergo extensive renovations to address these concerns.

Alongside new stretches of Armco barrier, new technology was brought in with a series of gantries erected at marshal posts, featuring overhead warning lights which could be switched on either by the marshals or race control. These replaced the traditional flags and provided a much more sophisticated system of race management.

Track changes were also made, with the construction of two esses; one immediately before the pits and the other at the Ascari bend on the long course, which was considered dangerously fast. The changes meant that the longer hairpin variants were taken out of use, track bosses preferring a slower entry to the pit straight. The pits themselves were radically altered, with new buildings and garages constructed further back from the circuit, allowing a separate pit lane to be created, through with a slight realignment of the pit straight, which was moved slightly closer to the grandstands.

Formula One had returned in 1971, thanks in part to the interest generated by a new star driver, Carlos Reutemann. Circuit No 9 was used until 1974, when the longer Circuit 15 was employed for the first time. Events would continue throughout the 1970s, though 'Lole' never did get to taste victory in his home event, despite several podium finishes.

After the military coup in 1976, the circuit once again had a new name, becoming the Autodromo General San Martin. Political tensions over the Falklands led to the cancellation of the 1982 Grand Prix and within weeks Reutemann had announced his retirement and Britain and Argentina were at war. The circuit once again fell into a grey period, where only national championships featured, though it remained the most important circuit in the country. After the return to democracy in 1983, the circuit reverted to the Autódromo Municipal name once more.

This did not last too long however, as in 1989 it was announced that the circuit would henceforth be named in memory of Oscar Gálvez, a star of the popular Turismo Carretera series who had died of cancer aged 76. This name would prove more lasting, only changing in 2008 when it was amended to the Autódromo Juan y Oscar Gálvez to also commemorate Oscar's brother and fellow racer Juan.

F1 returns but economic crash hits hard

By the mid-1990s, the impetus was building to return Formula One to Argentina. The circuit was leased to a private company and underwent another extensive refurbishment to bring it up to the required standard. Once again the pits were rebuilt and a further realignment made to the front straight. The final hairpin was modified and the small esses after the first turn were removed. Elsewhere, the Tobogan S-bends were bypassed with a new, tighter (and generally unpopular) section, named after Ayrton Senna.

The refurbished track duly hosted F1 from 1995 on the twisty Circuit No. 6-S, but it did not prove wildly popular. The same course also played host to the Motorcycle World Championships, but economic problems in Argentina meant that the required money to fund the races dried up, Formula One leaving after the 1998 and MotoGP continuing for a year longer.

Minor modifications to slow the Siervo 'S' bend were made in 1999, slowing the corner when used by the TC2000 touring cars, though the original corner also remained in use for the Turismo Carretera cars.

With little in the way of further investment from the municipality, the circuit began a period of steady decline as the once modern-facilities inevitably became dated and careworn. A new 15-year lease was let in 2005 to Autodromo Buenos Aires SA, and some resurfacing work was undertaken. However, there was precious little other investment and the numbers of races held began to be reduced, in favour of track day events, manufacturer days and even pop concerts (the 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014 Creamfields festivals being held here).

In recent years, the TC 2000 series elected to organise street races in preference to using the autodromo, but was tempted back to host a 200km endurance race in 2014. It proved a somewhat farcical illustration of the problems at the circuit, when on race day fans turned up at the gates to find that municipal authorities had closed the circuit by court order for alleged breaches in safety laws. After a four hour delay, the order was rescinded and racing finally got under way.

New investment sees circuit regain status

There does appear to be salvation in order, however. In October 2014, the Economic Development Minister within the Buenos Aires Municipal Government proposed a $50 million project to bring the facilities back up to international standards once more. The new circuit would be closely based on the existing layouts, with improvements to bring the track up to Formula One standards.

These proposals did not get the go-ahead, but a programme of more modest upgrades did take place from 2017 onwards. This included renewal of seating in the grandstands and repairs to the roof of the pit garages in 2017, followed by drainage improvements around the circuit and to alleviate flooding problems at the Curvón de Salotto in 2018. For 2019 the kerbing around the entire circuit was replaced with new 'Vallelunga' type kerbs, while remaining stretches of Armco barriers were replaced with concrete retaining walls and debris fencing. Gravel beds were also renewed and land at the edges of the track levelled to stop instances of errant cars becoming airborne over bumps. The pit garages were also refurbished.

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Circuit info

Autódromo Oscar y Juan Gálvez, Av Gral Paz, s/n, 1439 Buenos Aires, Argentina
+54 11 4604 9100
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