Address: Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba, Iraí Avenue, No. 16, Pinhais, Paraná, CEP 83321-000, Brazil
PH: +55 41 3667 3636
Circuit type: Permanent road course
The Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba is one of Brazil's top motorsport venues, with facilities that arguably exceed that of Formula One venue Interlagos. Even so, it is a facility which has always faced uncertainty throughout its life; a political row led to its effective closure for nearly 20 years and, since its resurrection in the 1980s, question marks have remained as to its long term viability.
The story begins in 1959 when a group of businessmen led by Flavio Chagas Lima announced a new project for a sporting complex in the Pinhais municipality of Paraná state. At its heart was a motor racing circuit designed by local architect Ayrton 'Lolo' Cornelsen, who had helped with the urban planning of Curitiba itself. He would go on to design circuits at Luanda in Angola, Estoril in Portugal and Rio's original course at Jacarepagua.
Lolo's vision was to create a multi-use sports facility, with the track playing the leading role. Alongside the track would be volleyball and basketball courts, an artificial lake for boating practice and a separate go-kart track. For children, there was a playground and a mini railway.
Land in the municipality of Pinhais was found, near to other sports venues, including a horse racing track and water park. In addition to the circuit, plans were also put forward for a new headquarters for the Automobile Club of Paraná.
The project bubbled under for a few years and Lolo eventually moved to Rio de Janeiro to oversee works there, leaving completion to Chagas Lima. A modified circuit design was approved, though many of the supporting sporting facilities never saw the light of day. State Governor Paulo Pimentel lent his assistance for the earthworks and access roads and, gradually, the circuit began to emerge.
By 1966, the circuit had been completed, save for asphalt surface. The oval outer course stretched for 1.68 miles and was intended for testing, while the twistier 2.61 miles road course would see the racing action. Both courses were run in an anti-clockwise direction in this first incarnation. The circuit was designed to be fully visible from all spectator vantage points and boasted amenities including a go-kart track and a large parking area. The new circuit was christened the Autódromo Paulo Pimentel in honour of the governor.
Such was the anticipation, a race was actually held on the dirt surface in 1966. Rumours abound to this day (but always denied by Chagas Lima) that the race outcome was somewhat fixed, given that the winning car – a Ford Galaxie – should have been outclassed. Its driver, however, was the owner of an aggregate business and, elated by his victory, donated the gravel that would allow for the paving the following year...
These early years saw a mix of four and two-wheeled competition as the circuit established itself as a major sporting venue in Paraná. It also put a great deal back into the local community, organising philanthropic events in aid of local hospitals, churches and charities.
Politics would intervene, however. A struggle for power within the Automobile Club of Paraná in 1971 led to the Confederation of Brazilian Autosport threatening to intervene, to the great upset of Chagas Lima. Unhappy with the direction of motorsport in the region, he elected to close the circuit for competition, just five years after its completion.
And so a period of hibernation began, punctuated by only the occasional use of the facility as a stage on a local rally event. As if to emphasise its dormant status, Chagas Lima put the land to work for arable pasture, with cows regularly seen grazing the infield (leading locals to nickname it the 'vacódromo ' - vaca being the Portuguese for 'cow'.)
For 17 years the impasse remained, until a group led by businessmen Adeodato Volpi Junior brought about an accord between the various squabbling parties and persuaded Chagas Lima to reopen the circuit in 1988. The passage of time meant that new investment was needed to bring the track up to modern safety standards and so local businessman Jauneval de Oms was given a 12 year lease, with a further optional 12 year extension, to operate the circuit.
Track modifications were made, including the reversal of the circuit direction and the creation of a new complex to bypass the original banked oval corner at what was now the start of the lap. This also necessitated a modification of the infield section, with the creation of a new corner called Pinheirinho. A new pit and paddock, located closer to the Vitorià corner, was also constructed and the whole track was resurfaced.
The revived circuit was named the Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba – a somewhat controversial move given the rivalry between Pinhais and its bigger neighbour – and dedicated in honour of Raul Boesel, the local racer who had been crowned World Sportscar Champion the year before.
It was sportscars that initially brought the circuit to international attention in 1996, when the BPR GT Series organised several 'Temporada' end-of-season away trips to Brazil. A two-hour race was held at Curitiba in front of huge crowds, who cheered wildly as Brazilian hero Nelson Piquet triumphed alongside Johnny Cecotto in a McLaren F1 GTR. Reaction to the circuit from the visiting European drivers was very favourable.
The next time the circuit featured on the international calendar was 2006, when the FIA included it as a round of the World Touring Car Championship, a position it held through to 2012. Again, it met the approval of many of the drivers, though there were some complaints about bumps.
While the WTCC has moved on to pastures new in South Amercia, Curitiba continues to boast a full calendar of events, including rounds of Stock Car Brasil, Formula Truck, the Brazilian Championship of Makes and Moto 1000 GP, alongside local championships for two and four wheels.
In 2014, the circuit moved to clarify rumours that it would be sold off for condominiums by stating the rumours were untrue, though did not rule out completely the possibility of such offers, if received, being given serious consideration in the future.
The Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba can be found in the municiplaity of Pinhais, to the east of Curitiba in Paraná State, Brazil. The nearest airport is Afonso Pena International Airport at Curitiba, around 10 miles or 30 minutes drive form the circuit.
Getting to the circuit by car is relatively straightforward, as it can be accessed from a variety or major routes, being signposted from Avenue Afonso Camargo and the parallel routes of Avenue Dario Lopes Santos and Avenue Prefeito Mauricio Fruet.