MAY 8, 1995
What you may not know about Barcelona
The area around Barcelona has been the home of Spanish motor racing since the first international races in that country in 1908. This was the Catalan Cup, held on a 17-mile circuit of public roads around the town of Sitges, on the coast to the south of Barcelona. That event began a strong racing tradition in the Catalonia region, and 14 years later local racing hero Frick Armangue masterminded the construction of a high-banked one-and-a-quarter mile concrete oval at Sitges-Terramar. In October, 1923, this hosted the first proper Spanish Grand Prix - the first in 1913 had been more of a social event which was won by a Rolls Royce. The 1923 race was a 200 lapper which featured a memorable battle between the American Miller of Count Louis Zborowski and Alberto Divo's Sunbeam.
Unfortunately Sitges-Terramar fell victim to financial problems soon afterwards, but the old oval is still there today, overgrown and forgotten.
Racing did not return to Barcelona until after World War II when the Penya Rhin Grand Prix was launched in 1946. The circuit - which was given the name Pedralbes - was laid out through the grand avenues of downtown Barcelona. It was on this track that World Championship Formula 1 racing first visited Spain in 1951, Pedralbes hosting the final Grand Prix of the season with Juan-Manuel Fangio winning both the race and the World Championship. Three years later Pedralbes played host to F1 again with Fangio being beaten by 25-year-old Mike Hawthorn.
The safety backlash which followed the Le Mans disaster in 1955 ended the history of Pedralbes. It was just too dangerous to race through the streets. It would be nearly 15 years before Barcelona decided to refurbish a road circuit, laid out in the city's Montjuich Park, which had been used for local races in the 1930s. Grand Prix racing returned to Barcelona in May, 1969, and Montjuich became a famous and challenging venue for the Spanish GPs of 1971, 1973 and 1975. The final race, however, was a disaster, with Rolf Stommelen's Hill-Ford crashing over the safety barriers and killing four people. F1 did not return.
It would be another 15 years before Barcelona once again decided to invest in racing, building the vast Circuit de Catalunya in 1990. This has hosted the Spanish GP since 1991; and Williams has yet to be beaten at the track, victories going to Nigel Mansell (1991-92), Alain Prost (1993) and Damon Hill (1994).
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