The state of Minas Gerais in Central Brazil has produced a host of top level racing drivers (Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira, Rafa Matos and Alex Ribeiro, to name just a few), but until recently has lacked a circuit on which they could enjoy home advantage. All that has changed with the Circuito dos Cristais near Curvelo, which in one move has given local racers one of the best facilities in the country.
The circuit has been a long time in the planning but brings to Brazil the 'race resort' concept which has proved so successful elsewhere. The 4.4km modern road course sits in a site of some 4 million square meters which has been designed to retain much of the natural vegetation which also featuring off-road driving facilities, a gated residential condominium club, shopping and leisure areas - in short everything the well-heeled petrolhead would need.
While the circuit has hosted the Stock Car Series in 2016 and 2017, it has since dropped off the schedules and now concentrates on local racing and track day activity for members and visiting clubs.
The project was first announced in 2012, when Marco Tulio Ferreira, Flávio Bergmann and engineer Alfredo Rodrigues from TecRacing Parks - a company which specialises in building sports complexes - began evaluating more than 30 sites in Minas Gerais. They eventually settled on a plot of land near to the city of Curvelo. It had a good road network allowing easy access to the city's airport, hotels and restaurants, plus year-round good weather, making it the ideal location for a road course.
Key to the project's success was the sale of memberships for the exclusive 'Club House', which sits adjacent to the track and allows members to watch the action in luxurious surroundings. Even with Brazil's uncertain economy, there was no shortage of takers and construction could soon begin in 2013.
After a three year build, the facility opened for business in April 2016. The 18-turn course was designed by Rodrigues and features elevation changes of up to 30 metres. Designed to to FIA Grade 2 and FIA Grade A standard, the initial track layout was tested in a simulator and then modified to improve the flow. Further input was gained by former motorcycle stars Alex Barros (the only Brazilian to ever win in MotoGP) and the FIM circuit safety advisor, former World Champion Franco Uncini.
The inauguration for racing came in September 2016 with the 'Grand Prix Gerais', a regional event featuring all of the forms of motorsport that the circuit accommodates. Superbike races, touring cars, motorbike enduros and trails bikes all featured on the event schedule, allowing the new track to really show off its facilities.
The final event of 2016 will be its largest, with the arrival of the Stock Car Brasil stars in early November. The drivers were impressed with the layout when sampling it early in its build phase, so Circuito dos Cristais looked set to be a popular addition to the schedule. However, after just one further event in 2017, the track was dropped from the schedules.
Towards the future, the circuit is also targeting the MotoGP World Championships, with discussions rumoured to have taken place about hosting a resurrected Brazilian Grand Prix, though these have so far come to nought.