Historic street track in Barcelona
Whilst in Barcelona for the Formula 1 testing I took the opportunity to visit Montjuïc, a hilltop coastal area within Barcelona that was once the site for a dramatic street race track.
I first became aware of the existence Montjuïc race track (pronounced with a Catalan hard “j” mon-jew-ick) about a year and a half ago. I had bought a car, from a resident of Barcelona, and amongst the vehicle documentation there was a drinks coaster on which was printed the name “Espiritu de Montjuic” (Spirit of Montjuïc) with an illustration of an F1 race car along with an “Espirutu de Montjuïc” events programme. This intrigued me and I wondered if there was a regular motor sport festival similar to Masters Historic or even another race track in Spain I was unaware of, apart from the main ones of Jarama, Valencia and Montmeló (Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya). *
I investigated further and discovered that Montjuïc was one of the locations for the 1992 Spanish Olympics, but prior to this played host as a street racing circuit, staging motor car and motor bike racing – open street map of the circuit. Motor car racing took place here as far back as 1933 and has featured drivers such as Tazio Nuvolari, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jim Clark. Unfortunately, street racing no longer takes place here.**
24 hour motorbike racing finished here in 1986 but Formula 1 finished in 1975 after a tragic incident when a car driven by Rolf Stommelen crashed and flipped over the barrier killing 5 spectators. The race itself was mired in controversy even before it began. During the race weekend it was discovered that the construction of the crash barriers was woefully inadequate and the drivers threatened to boycott the event. After much argument it was decided, at the last minute, to make good the poor work, this being done by anyone who could help, including the team mechanics. Nonetheless it was still too late to prevent Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior and Arturo Merzario withdrawing from the race.
The track is set in a beautiful location, winding between parkland and historic buildings, with stunning vistas over the city. Right in the centre, dominating the landscape is the impressive Palau Nacional de Montjuïc. The circuit is not long (3.79 km, 2.35 mi) and is comprised in the most part by open fast bends, reasonably wide for a street circuit, with a short, narrow, tight and twisty downhill section. Direction of travel was anti-clockwise. It would be comparable to Monaco and, I would say, more beautiful, less cramped and would probably offer better racing, especially from someone with skills such as Verstappen, where I could imagine him exploiting the sweeping bends for blocking or passing opportunities.
During my walk photographing the route of the track I felt a sense of excitement combined with nostalgia at discovering a gem of motor racing history and imagining how it would be to drive here. But, also a tinge of sadness that there will probably never be an opportunity to witness this circuit in action.
I took my photos from low down, at about drivers’ eye level, to give some sense of how it may be to look along the track. They begin form the start/finish section and all face in the direction of travel. I hope I have been able to fuel your interest in this remarkable location.
*Espiritu de Montjuïc is an historic racing festival, takes place at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. For more information:
**For more detail about the history: