History of the Masaryk circuit

 

It is spring 1930, and through the forest, over quiet village Popůvky located ten kilometres far from Brno, the knock of wooden hammers is heard. The tilers are settling into the sand the granite paving stones. They are building up a new racing track, which has to be finished in several months. Even the first lady of the Czechoslovak motorsport, Eliška Junková, ensures that the track will be ready by the end of the autumn. It is said that the track will be named after the first Czechoslovak president. The rumour was right and a legend was built: the Masaryk Circuit. The history of the famous circuit could be divided into several breakpoints. Let’s start from the beginning:

 

1930-1937

The beginnings of the Masaryk Circuit date back to 1930 in the forest not far from the growing city of Brno. At that time, with great support from the legendary female racer Eliška Junková, a racing track with one lap of an incredible 29.1 kilometres began to emerge. The race track was running on ordinary roads, which had to be reconstructed in record time. There were several track surfaces from modern asphalt, to more conventional concrete and to hilly cobblestones on the descending part leading to Popůvky. Racers hated them! During these days, for the first and for the last time, the racers were circling the Masaryk Circuit counterclockwise. Riders respected the track because of its difficulty. It reminded them of the famous Nürburgring northern loop, nicknamed ‘green hell’.

The first race was held on 28 October 1930, on St. Wenceslas Day. None of the world’s riders missed the chance to participate. In this first race, the Germans and the Italians were fighting for the prize. Despite the meticulously planned and ingenious tactics of Tazio Nuvolari on Alfa Romeo, the German Hans Joachim von Morgen was first to finish and became the first winner of a race at the Masaryk Circuit. In the following years, other legendary names were written into the history of the circuit: Louis Chiron dominated the Brno race between 1931 and 1933, followed by the Germans von Stuck, Rosemeyer and Caracciola on the extreme cars of Auto Union and Mercedes Benz, with whom, despite the lively cheering of local audiences, the Italians in weaker cars could not compete.

1949-1963

In 1938, due to the political situation and approaching war, no race was held on the Masaryk Circuit, and the pause lasted for eleven long years. The fans did not see the return of fast cars until 1949. At that time, the circuit lost its western part and was therefore shortened to 17.8 km. In addition to that, the drive direction was changed. Furthermore, the very first year of the renewed track gave rise to the legendary name of ‘Farin’s Turn’. At that turn, Maserati’s Italian Giuseppe Farina failed to break out and he drove off of the track. He survived but killed two spectators. At that race, an unbelievable 400,000 fans were cheering for the Ferrari piloted by Englishman Whitehead, who drove through the finish line first. Louis Chiron, the pre-war hero, impressed the audience too as he had made the fastest lap.

In 1946, when Winston Churchill spoke about putting up the Iron Curtain, no one in liberated Czechoslovakia suspected that in 1950 the world’s automotive elite would stay behind an impenetrable border. The Masaryk Circuit, however, received a very decent substitute. And thus in 1950, the history of road motor racing begun. Despite the fact that Brno was not registered early on in the World’s Championship calendar, the world’s most famous names sided down to Brno to fight for the laurel wreaths. Czech fans were looking forward to seeing racers like Campbell, Baltisberger, Kassner, Klinger, Hocking, Dale, Kavanagh, the Hinton brothers, Redman, Schneider, and Thalhammer together with their own top riders Šťastný, Havel, Bartoš, Parus, Koštíř, Malina, Lukšík, Slavíček, Čada and Srna all year long. The atmosphere at the track was always crazy.

1964-1974

In 1964, the Masaryk Circuit was shortened by another four kilometres. In the following year, the new 13.9-kilometre long track was launched on the World Motorcycle Racing Championship calendar, and the most famous era of the Masaryk Circuit started. It has lasted since then.

In the following years, the greatest motorcycle riders were fighting it out for the final place on the podium. Giacomo Agostini, the second-most successful motorcycle racer in the history of the track (after Valentino Rossi) has taken turns with legends like Hailwood, Read, Ivy, Saarinen, Cecot and Bohumil Staša, a Czech racer who was second in 1971.

1975-1986

When in the second half of the 1970s, natural circuits all around the world started to be replaced by artificial and closed ones, it was clear that the same fate awaited the Masaryk Circuit. And a further shortening to 10.9 kilometres did not help. The track failed to satisfy the stricter safety requirements. Thus, in 1982, the world championship on the ‘old Masaryk Circuit’ was held for the very last time.

Until 1986, ‘only’ riders of the European Championship and car racers were fighting on the track. They returned to the Masaryk Circuit in 1962 thanks to the Formula Junior teams. In their cockpits, there were unbeatable names including Formula 1 future world champions Rindt and Lauda. Between 1968-1986, the European Touring Car Championship was keeping its standards high in Brno. The endurance racing of this series featured the audience with a myriad of great pilots that they could only read in specialised magazines before.

From 1987

The modern history of Brno’s Masaryk Circuit started in 1987. Two years after the beginning of the construction, a modern closed race track started operation. The new non-conventional track was built in the woods on the outskirts of the Brno district, called Žebětín.

Right at the beginning of 1987, the series of Motorcycle Racing Championships returned to the Masaryk Circuit. Its tradition in Brno goes back to 1965.

The Masaryk Circuit was able to maintain its position in the market economy and today it belongs among the most important world racing tracks.

In 1998, the booths were expanded, the VIP lounges and the racers’ facilities were completed. In the winter of 2007/2008, the surface of the track was completely changed.