A bit of history
Nestled in a picturesque alpine valley near the city of Salzburg, Salzburgring is a historic Austrian track and just one of two in the entire country. Opened in 1969, the race track - despite its rather simple layout - is famous for its high speeds and long sweeping corners. It's definitely up there with being one of the most beautiful tracks there are on the continent!
Its high speed and fast layout embedded in nature are a curse and blessing at the same time though. While exciting for the drivers, the limited possibility to add additional run-off areas make it extremely difficult to "future-proof" the track for modern competitions. So did the track already pass its zenith?
Past and present, the track almost gives a city course type of vibe with armco barriers closely lining the circuit.
After its inauguration in 1969, the track was "baptised" by several touring car races quickly establishing itself on a national level as well as attracting a Formula 2 race in 1970 (albeit with a non-championship) run.
From its start in 1971, the motorcycle world championship was a regular guest and one of the most anticipated events until 1994. To add to its fame, Salzbugring hosted the European round of the Formula 2 Championship in the 70s. At the same time and until around 1980, the circuit also hosted different kinds of touring car races.
Probably not coming as a surprise, safety concerns soon arose rendering it increasingly difficult to host international competitions- especially for motorcycles.
Those concerns led to a series of alterations such as the insertion of a chicane in the final corner in 1976 as well as 1986 when a chicane was built at the end of the main straight to slow the cars down (initially this one was only used during motorcycle races).
Unfortunately, though, this was just the preface of what was really to come - the departure of many international motorcycle races as many of the mandatory safety features, especially extended run-off areas. As a result, the final motorcycle Grand Prix was held at Salzburgring in 1994.
The German STW Touring car championship was one of the last larger series using Salzburgring for one of its rounds and the track was almost exclusively used for national-level motorsport.
However, the Salzburgring management kept on improving the circuit with new Paddock facilities and run-off improvements as well as exclusively using the layout including the chicane after the main straight by the end of the 90s.
By hosting ETCC (European Touring Car Championship) rounds in 2008 and 2011, Salzburgring got back on the international stage. Making an impression, even the WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) hosted a round in 2012.
As a couple of other European "heritage" race tracks, Salzburgring is not spared a fairly uncertain future.
In 2015, when Dietrich Mateschitz i.e. Red Bull emerged as a potential buyer of the circuit, conflicts with land owners around the Salzburgring arose which prevented a further expansion to make the track eligible to host international competitions in the future - as you see, a recurring topic.
However, since 2022, there seems to be a discussion with the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) returning to Salzburgring after having visited it several times in the 80s. The return would surely be a major success for Salzburgring potentially putting it back on the map for other high-profile series.
What we think about Salzburgring
While GP Days Track Days at Salzburgring are always a highlight of the season, we definitely can understand the different opinions of our participants concerning the circuit.
While everyone agrees it's an amazing historic venue with lots of heritage and arguably one of the best locations, the layout is not for everyone. The high-speed sections require pretty powerful cars to enjoy the track and for some, it might seem a bit "boring".
However, if you haven't experienced the track yourself yet, you definitely have to. You will be more than pleasantly surprised!
Check out the videos below to get a first impression:
Porsche GT3 (997)
Lotus Elise 220 Sport