Autodromo di Pergusa offers a high-speed trip around the lake
Autodromo di Pergusa (or Enna-Pergusa) is a race track on the Italian island of Sicily, located near the town of Enna and built around the natural lake Pergusa. The circuit was opened in 1951 and it hosted many international competitions in its history, even the non-championship races of the Formula One.
Major competitions at Lake Pergusa were Formula 2, World Sportscar Championship, FIA GT Championship and Formula 3000 (since 1998). Failing to pass the highest FIA safety standards, the track was mostly the venue of national events during the 2000s and 2010s. In recent years, the last major competition was the FIA European Touring Car Cup in 2015.
High-speed oval circuit around the Lake Pergusa
The circuit was built by the local municipality in 1951, using access roads around the Lake Pergusa. The original circuit was 4,800 meters long. It was the oval-liked high-speed track with just one chicane. A pit lane area was located directly on the lake shore.
As the track was also close to the lake, there was a hazard for race drivers to fall into the water. Actually, it happened few times through the years.
Inaugural Mediterranean Grand Prix was held in 1962
In August 1962, the inaugural Mediterranean Grand Prix was held and as the non-championship race for Formula One cars. As Ferrari was one of the dominant manufacturers, the circuit was crowded. Ferrari’s drivers Lorenzo Bandini and Giancarlo Baghetti took the first two places.
In 1963, Ferrari 156 won the race, driven by John Surtees. Jo Siffert scored two wins in 1964 and 1965, driving BRM-powered Brabham BT11. The race in 1964 was marked by an accident of Mike Hailwood, in which his Lotus ended up in the lake.
Formula 2 races from 1967 to 1984
There was no Mediterranean Grand Prix in 1966 and then, in 1967, the race switched to Formula 2 rules, becoming the round of the European Championship. It remained a fixture on the F2 calendar until 1984, switching to Formula 3000 since 1985. The Formula 3000 was visiting Lake Pergusa until 1998.
During the period between 1967 and 1998, many world’s famous drivers and future F1 champions added a victory at the Mediterranean Grand Prix to his CV. The first F2 winner was Jackie Stewart, then followed Jochen Rindt, Piers Courage, Clay Regazzoni, Henri Pescarolo, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jacques Laffite, Rene Arnoux, Keke Rosberg, Bruno Giacomelli, Eje Elgh, Siegfried Stohr, Thierry Boutsen, Jonathan Palmer and Mike Thackwell. It’s interesting that only one driver (Boutsen) was a two-time winner.
Formula 3000 was visiting Pergusa until 1998
Mike Thackwell was the last F2 winner in 1984 and the first F3000 winner in 1985. After him, the F3000 winners at Pergusa were Luis Perez-Sala, Roberto Moreno, Pierluigi Martini, Andrea Chiesa, Gianni Morbidelli, Emanuele Naspetti, Luca Badoer, David Coulthard, Gil de Ferran, Ricardo Rosset, Marc Goossens, Jamie Davies and Juan Pablo Montoya.
During all those years, the circuit was not the same. The increasing speeds forced several reconstructions during the 1970s, with an addition of chicanes, so the track length increased to 4,950 meters. The new pit and paddock complex was also built at the northern end of the circuit.
World Sportscar Championship at Lake Pergusa
In 1975, the World Sportscar Championship came to Autodromo di Pergusa, as the third Italian track on the calendar (the other two were Monza and Mugello). The first winners of the Coppa Florio were Arturo Merzario and Jochen Mass in the #1 Alfa Romeo T33/TT/12. Jochen Mass repeated a victory in 1976, driving the Porsche 936 with Rolf Stommelen.
One more home win for Alfa Romeo followed in 1977, with Arturo Merzario in the #1 T33/SC/12. In 1979, the winning-crew members were Lella Lombardi and Enrico Grimaldi with BMW-powered Osella PA7. With that victory, Lella Lombardi became the first ever female driver to win some FIA-sanctioned world championship race. FIA’s world championship visited Enna-Pergusa for the last time in 1981 when Guy Edwards and Emilio de Villota won the race with Lola T600-Cosworth.
Frog invasion to the race track
During the 1980s and the 1990s, the Formula 2 and then the Formula 3000 were the main competitions at Lake Pergusa. As the race track is located directly on the lake, swimming accidents were not rare but the most unusual thing happened during the F3000 race in 1996.
Thousands of frogs came out of the lake and occupied the circuit. Everybody in the pit lane, which was closer to the water, literally were walking through the froggy surface but many little creatures arrived also on the track.
Touring cars and FIA GT Championship were there until 2003
In 1995, one more chicane was added to the track before the Curvone, named Pineta. As the circuit is a part of the protected nature reserve, there were no possibility for a major reconstruction or widening the track. Because of that, the security standards didn’t follow FIA’s requirements and Enna-Pergusa lost its major championship after 1998.
However, the European Touring Car Championship came to Pergusa in 2000 and then again in 2002. Fabrizio Giovanardi was the winner in all four races. In 2003, the winners were Roberto Colciago and Gabriele Tarquini. For two years in a row, in 2002 and 2003, the FIA GT Championship also visited Pergusa. The race winners in 2002 were Lister Storm Racing’s Jamie Campbell-Walter and Nicolaus Springer. Next year, the winners were Matteo Bobbi and Thomas Biagi with Ferrari 550 Maranello.
FIA revoked license in 2004 and approved it again in 2009
In 2004, FIA revoked the circuit’s license, requiring further improvements. Some work was done in 2005 but it was not enough, so circuit remained the venue some historic racing events but also for some non-racing activities (marathon, concerts). Finally, in 2009, the FIA approved circuit modifications and granted the FIA Grade 3 homologation.
The circuit was reopened for national racing competitions while the first international competition was the Superstars Series in 2012. The European Touring Car Cup returned to Pergusa in 2013 and stayed there for three seasons.
In 2016, there were no international competitions at Pergusa.
Video : A lap around Enna-Pergusa circuit
Address: Autodromo di Pergusa, Piazza Garibaldi 8, Via Nazionale 94010, Pergusa, Enna, Italy
Phone: +39 0935 543 1111
Official website: www.autodromopergusa.gov.it