St. Petersburg Street Circuit - Smooth, Fast and Popular
Located at the downtown of the city in Florida, St. Petersburg street circuit is a temporary racing venue used for various motorsport events since 1985.
The first attempt was partially successful
Local authorities wanted to revive city’s downtown area and decided to organize the street race. Although the residents weren’t thrilled about the possibility, the first race on the city street’s was a success. It was SCCA Trans-Am Series event which was followed by Can-Am Series race. Around 60.000 spectators turned out for the races but the organizers lost a significant sum of money.
Until 1990 the race has been organized at the slightly modified 3.219 km long track and, with a huge input of sponsors, still was relatively successful. Many famous names, including Walter Rohrl and Scott Pruett, were among the winners. However, the worst moment of that period was a tragedy in 1987 Trans-Am race when Jim Fitzgerald was killed in a crash when he hit concrete barriers.
The second attempt failed quickly
After many complaints about the noise and the loss of the main sponsor, the racing on the streets of St. Petersburg has stopped for while. In 1996 and 1997 the race was revived on the track built a few blocks away from the original circuit. The interest of the fans wasn’t at a high level, so the main sponsor again decided to withdraw support, so in the following five years there weren’t motorsport activities in the city.
Third time lucky
After a couple of years of lobbying and detailed planning, it was in 2003 when the organizers for the third time tried to return racing to St. Petersburg. Their attempt was successful and the CART Champ Car Series Grand Prix made the headlines. The SCCA Trans-Am series race also was held that year, as well as the events of some minor series.
Since then, St. Petersburg Grand Prix has held annually with the exception in 2004 when it was canceled due to a dispute between the promoters and the liquidation of CART Series. When the race returned in 2005, it switched to the rival IndyCar Series, becoming the first non-oval round in the series. Since 2009, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the IndyCar season-opening race.
Circuit popular among drivers
The new track designed in 2003 immediately became popular and therefore there was no need for the layout changes. The new course incorporated some parts of the original track with the inclusion of one of the two runways of the local airport and the parking lot of Al Lang Stadium, while the new purposely built pit-lane and paddock area improved the conditions for the teams.
The new track with a mixture of asphalt and concrete surface was 2.9 km long with 14 turns. Unlike most of the street circuits, this one is quite smooth and offers many places suitable for overtaking. Track record time holder is Will Power who drove a lap in 1:00.245 during 2016 IndyCar Series race.
In 2011, following the death of Dan Wheldon, who lived in St. Petersburg, part of the track was named after former IndyCar Series champion. Besides IndyCar Series, St. Petersburg street circuit is the home of Indy Lights Series, Pirelli World Challenge Championship, US F2000, and Pro Mazda Series. From 2007 to 2009, the American Le Mans Series events also were held on the streets of Tampa Bay area.
The nearest international airport is at Tampa, around 25 minutes drive north across the Bay, while St Petersburg-Clearwater airport, which is slightly closer, offers connecting flights to destinations across the US.
Video – Will Power onboard at St. Petersburg street circuit
Address: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, 100 2nd Avenue N #340, St. Petersburg, FL 33071, USA
Phone: +1 727 898 4639