Address: Parque La Pedrera, Villa Mercedes, San Luis, Argentina
Circuit type: Temporary parkland course
The Autodromo José Carlos Bassi is a semi-permanent street course in the Parque la Pedrera in Villa Mercedes in Argentina. Built by the Government of the Province of San Luis, the circuit hosts the top Turismo Carretera series on a layout which is one of the fastest of its kind on the calendar, despite its concrete-lined nature.
The track was announced in May 2016 by Governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá, part of a multi-million dollar sports, education, health and cultural complex. Aside from the circuit, the completed site will include a FIFA-standard football stadium, a hospital, elementary and secondary schools, an equine therapy centre and an amphitheatre. When not in use for racing, the circuit forms access roads around the complex, with the paddock area used for parking.
Sited entirely within a large public park near the river, surrounded by lagoons and indigenous flora, the setting not entirely dissimilar to Australia's Albert Park course, which is probably the circuit closest in concept to Parque la Pedrera, thanks to its year-round use for sporting and leisure activity.
A unique feature of the 18-turn course is its width; evidently the Governor wanted to ensure the facility could boast a world record, so the main straight was constructed at an epic 30-metres side-to-side, gradually tapering down to a still-wide 20 metres around the rest of the course. Perhaps a little over-the-top, but civic pride was at least achieved.
Another innovation is the use of LED-lighting around the entire course, which could in theory allow for night racing to be held in the future. The pit area boasts a block with 50 garages and a timing and control tower, complete with media centre. Three permanent grandstands, each seating 1,000 spectators, are located around the track. One also houses the medical centre and another has a fire station beneath it.
Construction on the new circuit was conducted with an ambitious one-year timeline for completion, with the associated works on the the football stadium and amphitheatre continuing in parallel, though with later completion dates. With no major hold-ups experienced, the circuit was completed ahead of time and ready to host its first event, round 5 of the Turismo Carretera series, on May 12-14.
At the opening event, the circuit was officially named the Autodromo José Carlos Bassi, in honour of the former champion driver who was also involved with the redesigns of the Autodromo Rosendo Hernández and Potrero de los Funes circuits elsewhere in the province.
Reaction of the drivers to the new venue was extremely positive, with Agustín Canapino describing it as "awesome to drive" and "the most difficult circuit in the country". He added: "It actually meets the essence of motoring: very risky, with a lot of adrenaline but all the required safety measures in place." Canapino turned his love of the new circuit to enter the history books as the circuit's first winner and lap record holder.
The Autodromo José Carlos Bassi is located within the Parque la Pedrera in the city of Villa Mercedes, San Luis Province, Argentina. The nearest airport is Brigadier Mayor César Raúl Ojeda Airport at San Luis, around 1h 20 minutes away from the track, with daily flights to and from Buenos Aires. For international flights, Ingeniero Aeronáutico Ambrosio L.V. Taravella International Airport in Córdoba is around five hours' drive to the north.
The park is on the outskirts of the city, adjacent to the La Ribera neighborhood. Access for spectators is from three entrances to the park:- at the intersection of Provincial Route Nº 2B and Ruta Costanera Sur; at the corner of Mahatma Gandhi and Enrique Pérez Avenue in the La Rivera neighborhood; and at the roundabout on Ruta Costanera Sur and the new bridge over the River Quinto.
For competitors and officials, the entrance is at the intersection of Ruta Costanera Sur and Mahatma Gandhi, very close to Villa Mercedes Golf Club.
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