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Circuits of the past

Remember the motor racing circuits of the past!

My trip to Sitges Terramar

It was Friday the fourth of July 2008 when I drove with a brand new rented VW Polo and with mixed feelings from Barcelona to the former Autòdrom Sitges Terramar. This could be a great day or a big disappointment! This classic high banked oval was in 1923 the site of the Grand Prix of Spain, but today an abandoned circuit where visitors are not wanted...

On the internet I read some stories about biting dogs and angry man with rifles on the track, who let the visitors know they are not welcome at this private property. In My best Spanish I wrote a letter for the landlord to ask him for permission to take some pictures.

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

Arrived at Sitges it was more difficult to find the site than it looks from Google Earth. So I asked at the Tourist Information.

“You know that this is a private circuit?” Asked the girl behind the desk. I told here that I knew that and let her know that I had a letter with me for the landlord. “Than I will explain you how to come there.” Was her reaction.

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

After a little ride, the last part over an unpaved road with a lot of holes, I arrived behind the grandstands of the Autòdrom Sitges Terramar. The first house I saw was built into a grandstand! Supposing this was the house of the owner of the site I knocked on the door (there was no door bell).

An old woman came and I gave her the letter. Confused she looked at the letter, probably she could only read Catalonian (or maybe not at all). When I said something about the Autòdrom she pointed to the road to the track and gave me back the letter. So that was easy I thought and I drove to the start/finish straight.

After I took some pictures I came close to a house at the site where the start/finish line should have been. Here I saw three ladies in a white car who just want to leave. But when they saw me they stopped...

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

With my letter I walked to the car and a lady at the back seat opened the window. After she had read the letter she told me the owner was for business in Barcelona. With her cell phone she tried to call him but no answer.

After a little chat another lady came out of the car and said in perfect English: “I’m the owner”. After she had read the letter she gave me permission to take pictures but I had to wait till they where back.

We agreed that I should come back at 2 p.m. to take the pictures. She also warned me that at a certain spot at the circuit there could be dogs...

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

After a meal in a local restaurant I drove back to the circuit. It was almost 2 o'clock but the ladies where not arrived yet, so I took some pictures of the main grandstand which was reconstructed to something that looks like a depot.

When I arrived again to the house, again the ladies where not there! But there came a boy on a scooter. He could speak English so I told him about the situation. He said his father was the owner and he tried to call him. But again, no answer. Afterwards this was my big luck...

He gave me permission to take some pictures from the banking. Initially he asked surprised what I want to photograph. He was obviously not aware about the great motorsport monument at this site. I wish I had a circuit in my garden!

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

After I took some pictures at start/finish I entered the banking. The banking was only accessible by an unpaved road trough the fields because they constructed some roadblocks from fences and chains at the track. I guess to prevent visitors to play racing driver.

Behind a fence I discovered a big hole in the road. What a luck that I did not drove into that hole I thought. This was a big warning to look out if there where more of these holes in the road before I would do something else I had in mind which I didn't told in the letter. I want to play racing driver too...

After I photographed the first banking and the back straight I found another road block. This was the part where the dogs could be! Fortunately there was a fence into the road block which I could open. Good for me but not for the story, no dogs came to watch me when I photographed the second banking. But the dogs where not far because I could hear them from a site next to the circuit.

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

After I took pictures from both banked corners and the back straight it was time to play racing driver. Fortunately there where no more holes in the road. So I floored the accelerator to experience the sensation of a classic banked oval.

And what an experience it was! I drove at many racetracks including the Nürburgring Nordschleife, but this was without a doubt the most exceptional circuit experience I ever had! Before I had the balls to drive at the top of the banking I had to drive a few times trough the corner.

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

Because the road blocks it was not possible to drive laps so I had to turn on the straight every time. As a result of that I drove trough the corner (only one corner was drivable) in both directions.

In particular driving anticlockwise was an almost scaring experience, because above I saw a passenger seat while below was a huge depth! Technical it was very easy, just flat out. But WOW, this was big fun! All respect to the heroes of the past who raced here. When you crash at this circuit you don't have to make any illusion about the end...

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

After I had some good fun at the banking I drove to the other side of the circuit to make my photo lap complete. When I took some pictures, the overheated rental car could cool down while I enjoyed the smell of a car who just drove at the circuit. Yes, this brand new car had a great experience at his first ride.

When I was almost finished photographing a lap, the boy at the scooter came to me and asked me if I was ready. He told me he phoned with his father who said “No more pictures!”. I told him that I would make two more pictures before I should leave which was okay for him.

Again with mixed feelings I leaved the site. Happy that I had the fantastic experience to drive at the banking (Nb: The Karussell at the Nürburgring means nothing compare to this huge banking). Happy with the unique pictures I took there. But also a little bid sad because the strange end of my visit. And even more sad because a motorsport monument of the past is dying here. But most of all I realised that I was very lucky that day!

Herman

Circuit Autòdrom Sitges Terramar

Click here for a photo tour around the track!

© Text and pictures: Herman Liesemeijer

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