A bit of history
The Circuit Zandvoort is definitely part of European motorsport and especially Formula 1 history!
While races took place around Zandvoort even before WWII, the first permanent racetrack was constructed shortly after. Together with the overall post-war rebuilt of the city, the first permanent racetrack was completed in the end of the 1940s and celebrated ist official premier in August 1948.
In the beginning, the layout comprised a mix of public roads as well as purpose built section forming a fast, yet twisty and challenging circuit. A little anecdote we stumbled across mentioned that the then-mayor secretly worked on the circuit's construction using German soldiers pretending that the roads would be needed for a victory celebration once the war ended. In the end, this is supposedly how the main straight of the initial circuit would be created.
Being an instant hit with drivers, teams and the motorsports community, the Circuit Zandvoort (back then Circuit van Zandvoort) soon attracted the attention of Formula 1 which held its first race here in 1952. The track remained part of the calendar until 1985 with the exception of 1972, where Circuit Zandvoort failed to comply with safety guidelines.
The 1970s marked a difficult period for the circuit. With Pierce Courage in 1970 and Roger Williamson in 1973, the track was scene of two fatal Formula 1 accidents. In 1972 Formula 1 skipped Zandvoort due to safety concerns. The last Formula 1 race was held in 1985 and who would have thought the circuit right in the dunes of the north sea would make a return more than 30 years later!
Circuit Zandvoort Today
From 1985 onwards, Zandvoort was mostly used for national racing. Complaints by local residents about the noise as well as latent financial struggles of the operating company made it almost impossible to bring the track up to date for bigger competitions. In order to prop up the circuits financials, part of the land was sold to a developer with the plan to establish a holiday resort.
Though planning permission for an upgrade and layout change to improve noise pollution was granted in 1987, the plan was cut short as the operating company ultimately succumbed to its struggles and filed for insolvency. With the remaining funds from the land sale, a new operating company was established which in order to keep the circuit alive, remodelled it by essentially eliminating most of its southern section, closest to the city of Zandvoort and main cause for noise complaints. The "Circuit Park Zandvoort" was born, back then with only a meagre 2.5km of track length but the races kept on going!
During all this time, the management - not wanting to disappear from the minds of motorsport enthusiasts - had future in mind and kept on hosting successful events, notably the Formula 3 Masters which proved to be hugely popular. With the circuits former fame slowly returning and finances improving, the infrastructure was continuously modernised. In 1999, the circuit was extended to the layout we all know and love - Zandvoort was back!
Step-by-step, more prestigious racing series returned, including the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) as well as the A1GP and the ADAC GT Masters. With rising popularity came an increased number of (noise) complaints - again. While racing continued and a lease was secured until 2041 in 2008, many of the more prominent racing series had to relocate to different race tracks due to noise regulations.
With the ever rising popularity of Max Verstappen, calls for an return of F1 to return to Zandvoort grew louder and louder overpowering the grumbles during a small part of the local community wanting to live in "peace and quietness". With the confirmation that Formula 1 would return in 2020, modernisations were started almost immediately.
Apart from setting up the necessary infrastructure, safety standards had to be met. However, the changes in Turn 3 as well as Turn 14 are what's most important - F1 brought two exciting banked corners to Zandvoort!
What we think about it
Zandvoort (nowdays CM.com Circuit Zandvoort) is one of the true greats. In our opinion it's right up there with its Grand Prix family including Spa Francorchamps and the Nürburgring. Due to its location right in the sandy dunes of the north sea, it's often challenging with fairly low levels of grip and while Zandvoort is a Formula 1 track, don't expect the run-off areas to be huge. Luckily, Formula 1 didn't harm the "old-school" style of the circuit and kept its excitement!
When it comes to Zandvoort though, it's not just the about the track. When do you have the chance to smell the sea breeze while doing a Track Day? Be sure not to just come to Zandvoort for the Track Day but stay one or two days longer to enjoy the area!