Zeltweg Airfield is a former track in central Austria. It was meant as an interim measure until a purpose-built track was constructed, but the simplistic configuration, spartan accomodations, extremely bumpy surface and safety concerns all led to the event being dropped from the calendar after only two races.
After World War II, Austria found itself divided in much the same manner as Germany. But under the terms of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, Austria pledged to remain forever neutral, and to not join NATO. In return, the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw all of their forces from Austrian soil, and to not create another East Germany. But there was nothing in the treaty to prevent Austria from creating it's own military, and after the treaty was signed, a great deal of military construction was started, much of it funded by "foreign aid" from NATO members. The fledgling Austrian Air Force wanted a base removed from the Iron Curtain. and the Zeltweg area was one of the westernmost valleys large enough to accommodate that type of aircraft.
The airport was built for both military and civilian use, and opened in 1959. Not long after, the owners were approached with the idea of using the airfield as a race track. The course architects had images of Silverstone in their minds, but it turned out quite differently. Much of the surface of the airfield was constructed of slab concrete. Each slab is very smooth and flat, but over time the slabs tend to move slightly in relation to each other. This can cause large gaps to appear between the slabs, or even worse, have the slabs change elevation in relation to each other. While aircraft and large vehicles can cope with the surface, it can be ruinous to high speed racing cars. The 1963 non-championship race, run over 80 laps, featured seven cars running at the end from 19 starters, and the winner, Jack Brabham, had a five lap lead over second place driver Tony Settember. The result in 1964 was only slightly better, with nine cars finishing out of 20 starters, and two cars on the lead lap at the end.
The circuit was basic, almost as simple as the AVUS near Berlin, but with most of the turns right handers all of the corners were of the 90° variety, except for one 180° at the end of the lap. The start/finish line and the pits were on the longest straight, one of two on runway 08L/26R. After the line, the cars would travel almost half a kilometer before entering a sweeping right hand bend. This would put the cars onto a short straight, headed directly towards the hangar used as the garage for the event. But well before the cars reached the hangar, they made a pair of right hand bends, the second sharper than the first. The two bends were close enough to each other that they are often classified as one wide 180° corner, but there were two apexes, and a very short straight in between. After another short straight came the sweeping left hander, the only one on the circuit, them back down Runway 08L/26R to the tight 180° bend that leads back to start/finish.
One major problem was the two straights on the main runway were separated by less than 20 meters, and in between were the pits, which only had hay bales on either side to protect the teams from the cars. A couple of sources claim that some of the drivers were pooling their knowledge of the worst bumps, and were planning their routes around the track accordingly.
The airfield is now known as Fliegerhorst Hinterstoisser, and is the main base for the Austrian Air Force. As such, it is a guarded facility, with no general public access. The runway used for much of the track (08L/26R) is now maintained as a grass strip (for gliders, etc.), and the taxiway used for the remainder of the track (and to access the paddock) has been completely removed, leaving less than 100 meters of the surface once used for racing. Between that, and the exclusive military usage, this is the one former circuit that fans can not have any contact with.
The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Zeltweg Airfield circuit:
|Year||Event||Winning Driver||Winning Constructor|
|1963||Austrian Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Climax|
|1964||Austrian Grand Prix||Lorenzo Bandini||Ferrari|
The rose background indicates a non-championship race.
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