Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson 6 years ago

I Drove On A Terrifying Concrete Oval Circuit That's Been Abandoned Since The 50s

The Autodromo Sitges-Terramar has been abandoned for 60 years, but it still stands today. At a recent launch, I was given the chance to take a high speed drive around its terrifying and bumpy banked sections...

Remind me later
I Drove On A Terrifying Concrete Oval Circuit That's Been Abandoned Since The 50s - Blog

It looks steep enough from a distance, but it’s not until the banking’s right on top of me that the severity of the 60 degree angle hits home. And threatens to scare the contents of my bladder onto my trousers. I’m at Autodromo Sitges-Terramar, a banked oval circuit that’s not been used since the 1950s, and thanks to the wonders of centrifugal force, this is no time to wuss out: I have to keep the speed up if I want to hold a position nice and high up the side of the extremely bumpy track.

It’s a weird sensation, turning the steering wheel of this first-gen, V6 Seat Leon Cupra right as the whole car is turning left, being forced down into my seat, but before I have time to give it much thought, the first banked section is over with and we’re back on a flat part of the track. To my left, several ramshackle sheds that form part of a chicken farm whip by. Yep, a chicken farm.

So what exactly led to this place being abandoned and taken over by hordes of fowl? For the answer, you have to go back to the early 1920s.

The track was the brainchild of civil engineer Frick Armangue, and in October 1923 his 4 million peseta vision became a reality after a 300 day construction period. The track was troubled from the start, however. Grand Prix machines of the era were experiencing a rapid growth in the performance department, meaning it wouldn’t be long before the 1.24 mile circuit was declared simply unsuitable for holding top races.

I Drove On A Terrifying Concrete Oval Circuit That's Been Abandoned Since The 50s - Blog

To make matters worse, the still unpaid construction company seized the circuit’s takings for the first few races, putting the venture into serious financial difficulties. For the 1923 Spanish Grand Prix - won by Frenchman Albert Divo in a Sunbeam - the venue had no money to pay the drivers. It was banned form holding international events shortly after, leaving that 1923 GP to be the only big event the track ever held.

Some regional racing activities took place for the next few decades, until Terramar was abandoned for good in the 1950s. The silver lining to this sad tale? The concrete creation was remarkably well built, meaning the track still stands today, and you can still drive around it.

That’s why I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of this old V6 Cupra - a car we never received in the UK, to add a cherry on the cake of this already special moment - fixating on the rear bumper of a new Cupra 290 driven by ex-WTCC driver Jordi Gene. He took me around the track earlier on in the 290, hitting almost 100mph on the fractured banking at times. I’m not sure how fast I’ve been driving, but I daren’t look away from the view out front to even give slightest of glances at the speedo.

We’ve reached the next section of banking, and it’s clear Jordi has upped the pace a little bit. I apply a little more pressure on the throttle to keep up, and we’re bouncing along that terrifying banking again. A rhythmic thud thud thud thud from the tyres rolling over the broken up concrete surface fills the cabin, but as with the previous piece of banking, it’s all over before I have time to wrap my head around this strange experience.

As we pull in to the Cupra 20th anniversary display Seat has put together, I’m pretty certain I’ve just made a lasting memory. Autodromo Sitges-Terramar is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to, and holding back my bodily fluids while hammering around its bumpy form is easily one of the coolest things I’ve done in a car.