Jerez Circuit - the world's capital of motorcycle fans
Jerez Circuit or Circuito de Jerez, located near the Spanish town of Jerez de la Frontera in the region of Andalucia, is the mecca of motorcycle racing fans since its opening in 1985, but it also hosted five Spanish Grand Prix Formula One races from 1986 to 1991 and two F1 European Grand Prix races in 1994 and 1997. In recent years, the circuit has become known as the venue for MotoGP and other motorcycle races, some second-grade international car races and the test venue of many teams during winter months.
Jerez has a long history of motorcycle racing
The story of the Jerez Circuit began with a long history of motorcycle races. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Jerez was organizing street races which attracted the top riders of the time. During the decades, different locations were used, until the street racing finally ceased after 1981 season.
The Circuito Permanente de Jerez was opened in 1985
After losing the street circuits, mayor of Jerez, Pedro Pacheco Herrera, had a plan to build a modern permanent racing circuit. Led by Spanish engineers and designers, the project was finalized in 1985. In December 1985, although the circuit wasn’t completely finished, it hosted its first race: a round of the Spanish Touring Car Championships. The new race track was 4.218 km (2.621 miles) long and it featured 16 turns, driven clockwise.
A few months later, in April 1986, the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, which was the full name of the race track, hosted the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Jarama in the Formula One calendar.
Epic finish of the inaugural Formula One race
The race was marked by a furious battle between Ayrton Senna (Lotus) and Nigel Mansel (Williams), which ended with a side-by-side finish and Senna’s victory claimed by mere 0.014 seconds. In 1986, it was the closest ever finish in any of the Formula One races.
Senna and Prost were two-time winners at Jerez
In 1987, Mansell stepped to the top podium spot after winning by 22 seconds ahead of Alain Prost (McLaren). The following year, Alain Prost was the winner, beating Mansell by 26 seconds. In 1989, Ayrton Senna had won one more time at Jerez, this time as McLaren’s driver. In 1990, which was the last year of hosting the Spanish Grand Prix, Alain Prost was the winner, driving for Ferrari.
1990 – horrific accident of Martin Donnelly
The 1990 Spanish Grand Prix was marked by a horrific crash of Martin Donnelly during the practice session. His Lotus was completely destroyed and he received serious injuries that took months of recovery, bringing an end to his Formula One career.
Poor attendance on F1 races, hundreds of thousands of fans on moto races
For 1991, the Spanish Grand Prix was moved to Barcelona. Although the Jerez circuit was popular among F1 drivers, the series management wasn’t satisfied with a remote location and poor attendance. On the other side, the grandstands at motorcycle races were always full, sometimes with 200,000 spectators during the weekend.
Regular venue in the FIM World Championship calendar
Jerez hosted its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1987 and the circuit is the regular host of the Motorcycle Spanish Grand Prix since 1989. The first winner in the premier class was Wayne Gardner, who also won the world’s title in 1987.
The later winners of 500cc or MotoGP class were some of the world’s greatest riders, such as Eddie Lawson, Michael Doohan, or Kevin Schwantz. The record-holder with seven wins is Valentino Rossi. Out of Spanish riders, multiple winners were Alex Criville, Dani Pedrosa, and Jorge Lorenzo.
Circuit modifications in 1992 and 1994
In 1992, the biggest change of the circuit layout was made, which extended the track to 4423 meters. The one chicane was removed and the new parabolic turn was created, named after former Spanish racer Sito Pons. The straight after that turn is 600 meters long, the same as the start-finish straight.
As a part of the reconstruction, Jerez also became the first circuit to install air-fences in place of the traditional straw bales for motorcycle races. Jerez was also the first circuit to construct a motocross track inside the facilities. It hosted World Championship events and many other international races.
The new chicane was named after Ayrton Senna
Two years later, further changes were made as a preparation for the 1994 Formula One European Grand Prix. The new chicane, named after Ayrton Senna, was built in place of Turn 11. With that chicane, the track is 5 meters longer. The old layout, without chicane, is still used in the motorcycle races.
Schumacher was the winner in 1994 and loser in 1997
The winner of the 1994 European Grand Prix was Michael Schumacher (Benetton), who eventually became the world champion for the first time. In 1997, the European Grand Prix at Jerez was the final race of the championship. The 69-lap race was won by Mika Häkkinen (McLaren). It was his first Formula One race victory. His team-mate David Coulthard finished second and the Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve took third, which was sufficient for him to win the World Championship. Earlier in the race, Villeneuve collided with his rival Michael Schumacher. The German ended his race in the gravel while the Canadian won the championship.
The 1997 race was also marked by some controversies during the victory ceremony, so the FIA President Max Mosley later stated that ‘no further rounds of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be held at the Jerez circuit’.
Modernization and new facilities for more secure and comfort racing
In the early 2000s, the circuit facilities underwent some changes, getting new pit garages, medical and media facilities, VIP area… The new pit exit was installed in 2004 and the track was resurfaced in 2008, plus remodeling of the escape areas.
In recent years, Jerez circuit is still more focused on motorcycle races, hosting both MotoGP and Superbike championships. In car racing, Jerez was hosting various series, such as International GT Open, Formula 3, World Series by Renault, Ferrari Challenge, Formula V8 3.5… Jerez is also a popular venue for winter testing because of mild climate conditions during the winter months.
Address: Circuito de Jerez, Carretera de Arcos, km 10 Apartado de Correos, 1709 Jerez, Spain
Phone: +34 956 151100
Official website: www.circuitodejerez.com