Racing returns to Rio de Janeiro in the form of a temporary course at the city’s international airport, used by the ever popular Stock Car Pro Series for the first time in 2022.
The Galeão GP marks the first time that a commercial airport’s runway has been used for motorsport in Brazil and is also the first race for the Stock Cars in Rio since 2012, following the demise of the Jacarepaguá circuit.
The track has been officially named the Circuit Cacá Bueno after the five-time Stock Car champion.
Rio de Janiero had been without top level Brazilian motorsport since the Jacarapaguá circuit was demolished to make way for the Olympic Stadium complex. Despite assurances that a replacement circuit would be built, none was forthcoming, leaving series bosses to look elsewhere for a venue to host races.
While the series has been familiar with hosting street races in recent years, the crop of new permanent circuits elsewhere in Brazil has seen these fall somewhat out of favour, as well as the added complications of organising such races during the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2021, the solution was finally announced, with the decision to host the GP Galeão on the concrete runways of Tom Jobim International Airport (better known these days as RIOGaleão), with the backing of the Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Cláudio Castro. The event will also mark the 70th anniversary of RIOGaleão, inaugurated on February 1, 1952.
The first details of the race were announced at a press conference in December 2021, held at the Guanabara Palace, home of the Government of Rio de Janeiro. The creation of the first airport course in Brazil was a source of great pride for the Stock Car series organisers, not least because of the logistical challenges of making it a reality.
“There is a sense of great pride in all Stock Car members for the feat we are building for next year, this goes from riders to engineers, mechanics and sponsors. Surely the fans will feel the same way. It will be a historic moment,” explained Fernando Julianelli, CEO of Vicar, the promoter of Stock Car.
“A commercial airport has a very special logistical complexity. Add to that the natural complexity of running a race outside a racetrack, where all the facilities and track already exist, and then you begin to understand the size of the challenge.
“That is why it is important to thank and highlight the role of the State Government, RIOGaleão Airport, Secretariat of Sport, Leisure and Youth, National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) and Infraero, in addition to Naturgy and Light, which are the sponsors of the race”, he added.
Cleveland provides the inspiration
The task of designing the circuit fell to engineer Luis Ernesto Morales, President of the National Circuit Commission of CBA (Brazilian Automobile Confederation) and member of the FIA Circuit Commission (International Automobile Federation) since 2017. He had previously overseen circuit projects such as Velocitta and Anhembi Street Circuit used by the IndyCar Series.
It was another IndyCar circuit which provided some of the inspiration for the Rio circuit: Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront, which hosted Indycar races in the 1980s through to 2007. The wide flowing nature of the course was something that Luis Eresto was keen to replicate, though the final design was also an attempt to recreate the fast ‘outer’ circuit layouts of other Brazilian track, like Goiânia or Curitiba.
“The Cleveland circuit was the starting point, it was the origin,” Luis Ernesto explained. “The idea is that the layout of Galeão has a characteristic similar to that of an external ring circuit, such as that of Goiânia: high speed and most of the lap in high acceleration. “
At 3.225km (two miles) in length, it is expected that the Stock Cars will hit speeds of up to 260 km/h using push-to-pass through the Complexo de Gávea, with a huge overtaking opportunity under heavy braking into Turn 4. The whole section between Turns 1 and 4 measures 1.55km and the circuit is around 24 metres wide around most parts, save for the Turn 6/7 chicane, which is around 12 metres, while the runway section opens up to around 45 metres.
The assembly of the track required the production of several special parts. Among them are special metal kerbs, which are attached to the runway with a very high resistance glue. A total of 200 concrete blocks, each four meters in length and weighing around 2.7 tons, are also used to form retaining walls. Tyre barriers formed by 8,200 tyres in 270 tubular modules grouped together form the protection for the racers from the unyielding concrete at various points around the course.
Circuit honours a local legend
In addition to honouring the tracks which have shaped the Rio motorsport scene, the Galeão course pays tribute to another legend of the sport. The course is officially titled the Circuito Cacá Bueno in honour of the Rio native and five-times Stock Car champion who had campaigned hard to bring racing back to Rio. Unusually, Cacá will get the chance to compete on ‘his’ circuit, something he is looking forward to.
“I am thrilled and proud to have a racetrack with my name on it. It’s my town, I learned to go karting here, compete here, I drove for teams from my state, I live here. I never gave up on Rio, which is the city of tourism, that every foreigner dreams of knowing,” he said.
“It will be a special weekend not only for me, for racing at home after ten years, but for Brazilian motorsport as a whole. It’s been a busy week, with a lot of promotion of the race in off-track events and that’s amazing. Rio de Janeiro needed to get back to receiving big and important motor sports races and I’m sure the GP Galeão will kickstart this and soon the races will be commonplace again here and, who knows, we can have a [permanent] racetrack again,” Cacá added.
The first GP Galeão takes place on April 9 and 10, 2022, with practice and qualifying for the Stock Car Pro Series and race on for the secondary Stock Series on the Saturday, followed by the second Stock Series race and two races for the Pro Series on the Sunday.
Rather impressively, the circuit has been created in digital form for the official game of the Stock Car Pro Series, Automobilista 2, even before it exists in real life, allowing sim racers the chance to sample the course even before the pro drivers do!
- GP Rio Galeão, Av. Vinte de Janeiro, Edifício-Garagem-Terminal 2, S/N - Galeão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Official website
Rate This Circuit