The history of the Monza Autodrome - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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The history of the Monza Autodrome

The history of the Monza Autodrome
© FIA, 8 September 2011

The history of the Monza Autodrome

The Monza Autodrome has been the third permanent installation built in the world after Brooklands in England (1907) and Indianapolis in America (1909). It has always been the most important Italian autodrome and one of the most prestigious places for motor events internationally.

Indeed, during its 89 years of activity, it has hosted 76 editions of the Italian Grand Prix, 40 editions of the motorcycle Grand Prix of Nations and 37 editions of “1000 Kms di Monza” (Filippo Caracciolo Trophy) for Sport Prototype cars.

The construction of the Monza autodrome was decided in January 1922 by the Automobile Club of Milan to satisfy the request of the Italian car industry involved in sporting activities, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Club’s founding which happened, in an embryonic form, in 1897 (the official founding was in 1903).

The project was supported by the president of the Automobile Club of Milan senator Silvio Crespi and by its director Arturo Mercanti, who assigned the job to architect Alfredo Rosselli. Work began on May 15th 1922 and was completed in the record time of 110 days: 3500 workers were employed for the construction of the autodrome with 200 wagons, 30 lorries and a narrow-gauge railway 5 kilometres long.

The circuit included a high-speed loop 4.5 kilometres long featuring two banked curves linked by two straights, each 1070 metres long. The two curves lay on an enbankment rising 2.6 metres above the ground. These curves had a radius of 320 metres and made a theoretical top speed of 180-190 kilometres per hour possible. The road track was 5.5 kilometres long, with a maximum roadbed width of 12 metres. The two straights intersected on two levels in the Serraglio zone.

The public was received in the central grandstand (3000 seats), in six side stands entirely built of wood and masonry (1000 seats each), and in some stands along the track.

After the autodrome’s official opening on September 3rd 1922, with a race run with Voiturettes won by Pietro Bordino on a racing model Fiat 501, on September 10th the 2nd Italian Grand Prix took place, won again by Bordino on a Fiat 804. The 1st Italian Grand Prix had taken place the year before at the Montichiari circuit, near Brescia, still organized by the Automobile Club of Milan.

All the events were run on the full 10-kilometre track until 1928, when the Grand Prix was temporarily suspended for two years, due to the serious accident occured to Materassi (cars competed only in the Monza Grand Prix, run on the highspeed loop).

The Italian Grand Prix was run again in 1931 on the so-called “Florio circuit” (6800 metres), which made use only of the road track and the banked curve on the south. The full circuit was used again in the following two years.

From 1934 to 1938 an extensive program of modifications to the racing facilities was put into effect: two banked curves of “highspeed” were pulled down, the central straight was shifted westward and linked to the grandstand straight by two bends, called the “porphyry bends” due to the stone paving applied. Moreover, new pits and service buildings and a new grandstand were built. The new track measured 6300 metres and could be used only from 1948 when the autodrome resumed its activities after the war.

In 1955, the high-speed loop was put back in use. This track was 4250 metres long with banked curves with superelevation with slope increasing progressively to 80% in the top band. The curves were built on reinforced concrete structures instead of on an earth enbankment as originally, and were calculated for theoretical top speeds of approx. 285 kilometres per hour. The road track’s length was reduced to 5750 metres and the two “porphyry” bends were replaced by a curve with a single pitch that was called the “parabolic” due to its increasing radius toward the exit. Other improvements and enlargements were made to the service buildings.

In 1959, a track link was created connecting the grandstand straight with the central straight. This link, togetherwith the “parabolic” curve, gave rise to the Junior track (2405 metres long). In 1961, a vast plan for safety works was put into effect, including the adoption of reinforced fences and guard-rails. After the construction, in 1962, of the pavilion to house motor cars and vehicles of historical interest, in 1963 the pit area was entirely rebuilt according to more rational and modern standards, with a new 3-storey building for race control officials.

To reduce the very high and dangerous speeds of Formula 1 cars, two chicanes were built in 1972; the first was located on the grandstand straight, while the second was situated at the entrance of the “Ascari” curve. These chicanes were modified between 1974 and 1976 and became proper variants. At the same time, another variant at the entrance of the first Lesmo curve was built. These modifications brought the length of the circuit to 5800 metres.

Between 1989 and 1990, the pit zone was completely renewed, by building a two-storey structure measuring approx. 196 metres in length and about 13 metres in width, occupying about the same space as the old pits. On the ground floor the pit system is made up of 48 modular units, each having a 4 m frontage, that can be combined, thanks to movable wall panels, to form 16 pits of 3 units each, suitable for 16 Formula 1 two-car teams. The first floor is occupied by offices and hospitality rooms, as well as by a welcoming and rational press room suitable to accomodate almost 550 journalists, with rooms for telephone and fax services. The second terraced-floor is reserved as hospitality area. Avant-guarde systems for the management of the internal services of the autodrome and for the gathering and transmission of track-data have also been realised.

In 1995, moreover, to comply with the security standards set by FIA, some modifications were made to various parts of the track (“Grande” curve, Roggia variant, Lesmo curves), without drastically changing the structure of the track, leaving the lay-out practically unchanged. The “Grande” curve and the whole section of the Lesmo curves were moved back (with the contemporary reduction of their radii) to create bigger run-off spaces which have now changed , in the most critical points, from 50 m to 118 m and from 20 m to 60 m, respectively. The Roggia variant design and radii have not been modified, but it has been anticipated by approx. 50 metres to put it in a position with bigger run-off spaces. The total length of the track has now been reduced to 5770 metres. In 1998 the finish line had been withdrawn of 250 meters circa. Now it’s situated near the entrance of the pit lane. Among the most recent improvements, there also is the construction of a new medical centre (larger and modern and located in an area easily accessible from the paddock).

The last modification of the track in order of time dates back to summer 2000 when the First Variante’s and Roggia Variante’strack sections have been redesigned to increase the safety according to drivers’ and FIA demands. The First Variante,above all, which was made up by a double ess with left-rightleft curves, had been trasformed in a double right-left curve more narrow and slow that constrains the drivers to hold a speed of about 70-80 km/h instead of about 110 hold previously. The track had been brought again along the historic axis, while the left part of the asphalt is now used as a safety area.

Of minor importance is the modification worked on the Roggia Variante, the streght of which, between the entrance and the exit, is been lengthened of 10 meters. These two operations have increased the lenght of the Stradale Track from 5.770 to current 5.793 meters. Concerning the logistic and services structures, in autumn 2001 has begun a big reconstructive and contructive works of buildings. The pit building has been lenghtened of 50 metres on the south flank to increase the number of the pits from 48 to 60 and to create new areas for facilities and race control. Now the pit building is 254,30 metres long. A new paddock for support races, with track acces on Rettilineo centrale, has been built next to the F1 paddock.

Near the nord flank of the pit building has been constructed a new three floor building in which we find hospitalities, offices, data processing center and catering services. Even the podium is new and now it is situated over the pit wall, connected by a platform to the first floor of the pit building.

Other modifications regard the 4 metres enlargement of the pit lane and the new location of the “villaggio”, with shops, bar, bank, now situated in the ex festival pavilion. The old area of “villaggio” is now part of the paddock. The pit building was completed with the enlargement towards the paddock from 12,90 metres to 21,50 metres.
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