The Autódromo Internacional Orlando Moura at Campo Grande is one of Brazil's more modern tracks, being built in 2001, the third course in the midwest region of the country. It has hosted rounds of Brazil's premier racing series but recent political wrangling saw the track close briefly, only to be revived once more in 2015.
Today the circuit is without any of the major national championships and has reverted to local racing, testing and track day activities.
The circuit was the brainchild of Orlando Moura, an avid motorsport fan who built a karting facility on the other side of the city in the late 1980s. It was always his intention to build a car racing facility, but the land was too small and the kart venue was the successful compromise. This quickly built into a prestigious facility, hosting two rounds of the Brazilian national championships.
Nevertheless the lure of a full-sized circuit was an itch that simply had to be scratched as far a Moura was concerned. He bought another parcel of land, this time to the east of the city, which looked particularly promising. It was alongside a major road giving good access and was also large enough to allow for a modern circuit design with plenty of run off areas.
Of course, it was one thing to own the land and quite another to have the finances to build it. With other circuit projects the state-owned Petrobras oil company had provided finance, however it did not enter partnerships with private enterprises. Moura's solution was to approach City Hall, where he found an appreciative ear of then mayor Andre Puccinelli. In exchange for handing over the land to the municipality, Petrobras would provide funding to build the facility, which Moura would then run.
Truck racing legacy as circuit opens
Construction duly began in 2001, but even then a third party was needed to complete the facility. Enter Aurelio Batista Felix, founder of the popular Formula Truck series. He invested in the facility and agreed to add it to the series schedule. A legacy of this investment are pit garages - each was built with extra height to ensure a race truck would happily fit inside with no difficulties.
Accordingly the Autódromo Internacional Campo Grande opened for business on Friday, August 4, 2001, after months of hard work under sun and rain and abrupt climate changes of the period. A week later came the debut race with the arrival of Formula Truck. To say it was a success is probably an understatement. So keen were the crowds to see the action, the main BR 262 highway was packed with cars, forming an unbroken traffic jam all the way back to the city...
In the next few years the other major Brazilian categories also added Campo Grande to their schedules and the future looked assured. Behind the scenes, however, not everything was rosy. Frequent clashes with the federation and the local municipality over how the track should be managed led to Orlando Moura's departure, with administration passing to the city government. The clashes had at times been bitter - some of the major series departed as a result - so it was probably only minor consolation that the track would go on to be renamed in its founder's honour.
Reformed circuit brings back Stock Cars
In 2009, major reforms were made to the track in order to bring back the ever-popular Stock Car series. This included the remodelling of Turn 7 to create a wider and slightly faster turn. The entire track was also resurfaced using the same asphalt as at Interlagos, however this soon proved problematic and the surface began to break up at the new corner, forcing a switch back to the original layout. Subsequent repairs proved more successful, but the surface is still not what it should be.
As has often been the case across many of Brazil's circuits, several years of stability would be followed by a period of tumult; in 2012 the winds of political change swept through city hall and new mayor Alcides Bernal placed a much lower priority on motor racing. Funding thus began to be distributed elsewhere and the once pristine facility began to deteriorate. Inevitably the racing suffered as the major series drifted off elsewhere.
Things came to a head when public health officials and the fire service combined to get a closure order on the entire facility in 2014, concerned about a lack of fire safety equipment in the pits and paddock and other concerns over the suitability of the catering areas.
Bernal left office under a cloud after 14 months and was succeeded by his deputy, Gilmar Olarte, who was persuaded to release funds to bring about the necessary improvements to allow racing once more. In April 2015, the circuit duly hosted the second round of the Formula Truck series, while September saw the return of the Stock Cars.
Sadly, neither championship is hosted today (Stock Cars last racing in 2019) and the circuit has largely reverted to local racing categories.
- Autódromo Internacional Orlando Moura, Route BR-262, Campo Grande - MS, Brazil
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