The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is a historic race track located near the city of Monza, north of Milan, in Italy. Built in 1922, it is the world’s third purpose-built motor racing circuit after those of Brooklands and Indianapolis. The circuit’s biggest event is the Formula One Italian Grand Prix. With the exception of 1980, the race has been hosted there since the series’s inception.
Built in the Royal Villa of Monza park in a woodland setting, the site has three tracks – the 5.793-kilometre (3.600 mi) Grand Prix track, the 2.405-kilometre (1.494 mi) Junior track, and a 4.250-kilometre (2.641 mi) high speed oval track with steep bankings which has been unused for many decades and is now decaying. The major features of the main Grand Prix track include the Curva Grande, the Curva di Lesmo, the Variante Ascari and the Curva Parabolica. The high speed curve, Curva Grande, is located after the Variante del Rettifilo which is located at the end of the front straight or Rettifilo Tribune, and is usually taken flat out by Formula One cars.
The first track was built from May to July 1922 by 3,500 workers, financed by the Milan Automobile Club – which created the Società Incremento Automobilismo e Sport (SIAS) (English: Motoring and Sport Encouragement Company) to run the track. The initial form was a 3.4 square kilometres (1.31 sq mi) site with 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of macadamised road – comprising a 4.5 kilometres (2.80 mi) loop track, and a 5.5 kilometres (3.42 mi) road track. The track was officially opened on 3 September 1922, with the maiden race the second Italian Grand Prix held on 10 September 1922.
In 1928, the most serious Italian racing accident to date ended in the death of driver Emilio Materassi and 27 spectators at that year’s Grand Prix. The accident led to further Grand Prix races confinement to the high-speed loop until 1932. The 1933 race was marked by the deaths of three drivers and the Grand Prix layout was changed, with two chicanes added and the longer straights removed.
There was major rebuilding in 1938–39, constructing new stands and entrances, resurfacing the track, moving portions of the track and adding two new bends. The resulting layout gave a Grand Prix lap of 6.300 kilometres (3.91 mi), in use until 1954. The outbreak of World War II meant racing at the track was suspended until 1948 and parts of the circuit degraded due to the lack of maintenance. Monza was renovated over a period of two months at the beginning of 1948 and a Grand Prix was held on 17 October 1948.
In 1954, work began to entirely revamp the circuit, resulting in a 5.750 kilometres (3.573 mi) course, and a new 4.250 kilometres (2.641 mi) high-speed oval with banked sopraelevata curves. The two circuits could be combined to re-create the former 10 kilometres (6.214 mi) long circuit, with cars running parallel on the main straight. The track infrastructure was also updated and improved to better accommodate the teams and spectators.
With technology still increasing vehicle speeds the track was modified again in 1979, with added kerbs, extended run-off areas, and tyre-barriers improved, to improve safety for drivers off the track. The infrastructure was also improved, with pits able to accommodate 46 cars, and an upgraded paddock and scrutineering facilities. These changes encouraged world championship motorcycling to return in 1981, but further safety work was undertaken through the 1980s. Also in the 1980s the podium, paddock and pits complex, stands, and camp site were either rebuilt or improved.
In the safety conscious years following the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994 (albeit at a different track), the three main long curves were “squeezed” in order to install larger gravel traps, shortening the lap to 5.770 kilometres (3.585 mi). In 1997 the stands were reworked to expand capacity to 51,000. In 2000, the chicane on the main straight was altered, changing from a double left-right chicane to a single right-left chicane in an attempt to reduce the frequent accidents at the starts due to the conformation of the braking area, although it is still deemed unsafe in terms of motorcycle racing. The second chicane was also re-profiled. In the Formula 1 Grand Prix of the same year, the first to use these new chicanes, a fire marshal, Paolo Gislimberti, was killed by flying debris after a big pileup at the second chicane.
In 2007, the run-off area at the second chicane was changed from gravel to asphalt. The length of the track in its current configuration is 5.793 kilometres (3.600 mi). At the 2010 Monza Superbike World Championship round, Italian rider Max Biaggi set the fastest ever motorcycle lap of Monza when he rode his Aprilia RSV4 1000 F to pole position in a time of 1:42.121. In the Superpole qualification for the 2011 race, he improved on this lap time, for a new lap record of 1:41.745 and his speed was captured at 205+ MPH.
In late 2016, work was planned on a new first bend, which would have bypassed the first chicane and the Curva Grande. Drivers were to go through a fast right hand kink entering the old Pirelli circuit and into a new, faster chicane. Work was planned for to be completed by 2017 in hopes of a renewed contract for Formula 1. Gravel would have also returned to the run-off area at the Parabolica bend. However, plans for the track’s change were suspended due to the track being in the historic Monza Park
© GAVRA Racing 2018.