The European Grand Prix

The European Grand Prix is a race with a history of numerous stops and starts. Appearing on the schedule somewhat randomly over the years, it would then disappear altogether for long periods of time for no apparent reason.

It is different from most other races in that it has no fixed home, but some locations have a greater claim to the title than others because they have held the race on more occasions.

This year’s race will be held in Valencia, and will mark the first F1 race held in the city. The organisers are promising that the new circuit and the stunning scenery will make for a race to remember.

The first run

The first occurrence of the European Grand Prix came in 1923, when the title was given to the Italian Grand Prix. The race was held at the historic Monza circuit, and the winner was Carlo Salamano, who won the race in a Fiat. It started its existence as an honorific title given as a show of respect to a particular race, and the aim was to grant the title to a different race every year.

Grand Prix of Europe

Grand Prix of Europe

This first race was shortly followed by the French, Belgian, San Sebastian and Italian Grand Prix races, until it was taken off the agenda in 1929 for a season. It would return in 1930 when it went to Belgium, but that would be the last of the first run of the European Grand Prix, which would have to wait until after World War Two to be reinstated once again.

The return

It was the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) who decided to bring back the European Grand Prix after World War Two as an F1 race. And so in 1947 it went to the Belgium Grand Prix once again and was won by Jean-Pierre Wimille.

It continued up until 1952, during which time it was held by the Swiss, Italian, British, French and Belgian Grand Prix races respectively, until another hiatus in 1953.

It then returned again in 1954 and carried on uninterrupted for the next 15 years. During this time it alternated between the German, British, Italian, Belgian, Monaco, French and Dutch Grand Prix events.

Notable races

The 1954 European Grand Prix in Germany is remembered more for a tragedy that took place before the race than for the actual race itself. The death of Onofre Marimon during practice hung a sombre shadow over the race, and holds the grim statistic of being the first fatality in the era of Formula One.

1957 will be remembered fondly by British fans as the first World Championship victory for a British-built car, achieved by the two drivers Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss. The victory was all the more satisfying, seeing as it took place at the British Grand Prix at Aintree.

The 1960 race in Italy was notable for the boycotting by the major British teams in response to the dangers of the banking, which had been enhanced to maximise Ferrari’s advantage. It also marked the first American victory since 1921, with Phil Hill taking the prize, and the last victory by a front-engined car.

The 1966 European Grand Prix in France was another race to be marred by tragedy, as the former World Champion Nino Farina was killed in a car accident on his way to watch the race.

More British success came in 1968 when Jackie Stewart won by a margin of four minutes in wet and foggy conditions. To this day it is considered one of the finest ever performances. Indeed, it was an era of success for the British, as they took a total of 12 of the 15 races between 1954 and 1968.

Another break in the race came in the years 1969 and 1970, after which it resumed once again for a further six years.

This period featured the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, which was the most controversial of the lot. The race was called off at lap 29 due to the weather, and a restart was agreed upon. However, because only a chequered flag was used, the results had to stand and the winner, Vittorio Brambilla, won his first Grand Prix at the age of 37, even though only half points were awarded.

The third instalment

1977 would mark the end of the second spell of the European Grand Prix, and indeed the end of the race as an honorific title.

After a break of 7 years it returned in 1983, although this time it was reintroduced as a stand alone event. It only made a return because the race that year at Flushing Meadows Park in New York had been cancelled and, in a bid to fill out the schedule, Brands Hatch decided to put on a race and name it the European Grand Prix, thereby reviving the historic title once again.

It was such a success, in part due to the tense battle for the World Championship which was raging at the time, that the title was resurrected for a third instalment, becoming a regular fixture once again.

Brands Hatch was unable to hold the event the following year due to the British Grand Prix taking place. For this reason it was moved to the Nürburgring circuit in Germany, which had been redesigned and shortened to make it more popular.

In 1985 it returned to Brands Hatch, but once again it came to the end of its reign when, in 1986, it was replaced by the Hungarian Grand Prix. For the following 7 years it was once again made redundant, with no plans to reintroduce it.

The modern race

It was not until 1993 that the next race to receive the title came about. Interestingly, this occurred because of a Japanese businessman.

In 1990, Tomonori Tsurumaki constructed the Nippon Autopolis racetrack with the intention of holding an Asian Grand Prix in place of the Mexican Grand Prix in 1993. However, when this failed to materialise, a race was instead put into the schedule at Donington Park, in much the same way as Brands Hatch stepped in, back in 1983. By naming it the European Grand Prix, new life was breathed into the race that many thought had had its day. It was the only one to be held at Donington Park, and it is noted for Ayrton Senna’s famous win in wet/dry conditions, when he managed to lap the field.

In 1994 the race went to Jerez in the south of Spain, and the following year it then went back to Nürburgring, which was once again proving a popular race. It stayed here for the next season, but the name was changed to the Luxembourg Grand Prix in response to complaints that other countries were not to get the race.

In 1997 it went back to Jerez as a replacement for the Portuguese Grand Prix. Jerez was also the location for the season finale, which became famous for the competition between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve which saw Schumacher disqualified.

In 1998 it was dropped from the schedule, only to return the following year at Nürburgring in 1999. The race took place in torrential rain, which led to numerous slides from the track, and was finally won by Jonny Herbert, granting the racing team, Stewart Grand Prix, their only victory before being bought by Ford.

The race continued at Nürburgring until 2007, where on 29th August 2006 it was announced that it would be removed from the calendar, meaning Germany would only get one Grand Prix a year. However, due to a dispute over the new name for the race, it remained the European Grand Prix for the 2007 season.

Valencia 2008

August 2008 will see Valencia’s first ever Grand Prix on a street circuit along the harbour, taking place mainly in the marina area.

At 5,473 km in length, and with top speeds of 300 km/h (average of 200 km/h), the challenging layout consists of 25 turns (11 left and 14 right).

The race takes place nearly entirely along the water’s edge, providing for a thrilling spectacle. It also crosses the canal over a specially-built swing bridge between the north and south marinas.

From the fish market, the race will follow the docks through the shipyard gates, then through the suburb of Grao. After this it will go along the River Turia to Avenida de Francia, and will then complete a series of ‘S’ bends before going into the home straight.

At 14 metres wide throughout the length of the race it is a wide track, and it also features numerous run-off areas positioned along the circuit.

Timetable

Friday 22nd August 2008

  • Practice 1: 10:00 – 11:30
  • Practice 2: 14:00 – 15:30

Saturday 23rd August 2008

  • Practice: 11:00 – 12:00
  • Qualifying: 14:00

Sunday 24th August 2008

  • Race: 14:00

Tickets

At the time of writing, tickets for the race have not yet come on sale. However, by going to the contact form on the UK website for the race, you can send in your details in order to be contacted as soon as tickets become available.

When tickets do become available, you can also buy them through the Official F1 Website.

Travel

Valencia International Airport is 9 km from Valencia. You can take a bus into the city, which takes between 20 and 45 minutes, or you can take the Metro, which takes 15 minutes.

Contact

Although there is no specific number on which to contact the organisers, the best place to get further information about the race is through the UK Website.