The Welsh Grand Prix – Swansea
Wales has long lacked a top class motor racing facility. Pembrey is the self-proclaimed “Home of Welsh Motorsport” – opened in the late 1980s on a former RAF airfield west of Llanelli, it briefly hosted BTCC events, as well as F1 tests, but is these days limited club events. The Anglesey circuit on the island of the same name would be the “home of North Welsh motorsport”, having recently been significantly upgraded, although it is yet to attract any major series.
So I’ve put together a few proposals of my own. This is the first – a street circuit around Swansea, the second city of Wales with a population of about 170,000. It is set around the docks area, now rebranded as SA1 due to new luxury developments (3D map here), and the mouth of the river, with a mix of fast and slow corners. The redevelopment of the area fits in perfectly in a Valencia-esque way
The lap starts on Fabian Way, the main road in from the east. The westbound carriageway has the start/finish straight whilst the eastbound has the pit lane, with temporary buildings constructed alongside. Turn 1 is a medium speed right-hander, leading straight into the double left Turn 2, which takes cars onto the Parc Tawe Bridge over the River Tawe. The quick right-hander Turn 3, Parc Tawe Corner (named after the adjacent shopping complex), follows immediately, the cars accelerating through it, before a gentle left kink. Turn 4 is also a left-hander, taken at reasonably high speed, with asecond apex after, before slamming on the brakes for Turn 5, a 90 degree right. There is then a short straight before Turn 6 or Dragon Corner/Chicane (after the 4 star Dragon Hotel nearby) – this is shown as a chicane on the map but the road has been remodelled since and I’m not sure how that would look now.
Following this is another longer straight on Kingsway, before the wickedly fast Turn 7, a double apex left-hander, before a couple of flat out kinks near the Vetch Field, the former ground of Swansea City football team (therefore it would be appropriote to call these the Vetch Curves). At the end of this section is another left-hander, with a radius of about 90 degrees but opening on the exit onto the wide Oystermouth Road, making it a deceptively quick corner. At the end of this straight is the Turn 9/10/11 complex – an Eau Rouge-esque left-right-left, known as the LC Esses due to it being next to Swansea’s main leisure centre. Another short straight leads into the flat-out right-hand sweeper Turn 12, Quay Parade Corner, which takes the cars onto Quay Parade Bridge. Then it’s another hard braking zone for the Turn 13 right-hander, which is backing on to Turn 1 (safety precautions will be taken into account – this was done in the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore recently so definitely achievable).
The cars are now on the eastern side of the River Tawe in the SA1 development area. A quick blast takes the cars to the Turn 14/15/16 complex next to 2 large modern appartment blocks – the Turn 14/15 chicane will be known as Cyprium Chicane due to the adjacent development, whilst Turn 16 will be known as Norway Corner due to the proximity of the newly-renovated Norwegian Church. Another right-hand kink takes the circuit onto a long straight, passing through a roundabout which would otherwise have interrupted the flow, before the Turn 17/18 chicane, a potential overtaking opportunity – again, this section has been developed since so may have changed a bit (if there is no way of doing this now, the track would be cut short with a left at the roundabout and another left onto the main straight). A quick straight takes the cars in front of the new Vilage Hotel, before Turns 19 and 20, both left-handers. These are followed by a gradual left back onto the westbound carriageway of Fabian Way, before a gradual right onto the other carriageway and back to the start line.
In conclusion, a generally quick circuit with some fast sweeping corners, but with a few more technical sections typical of classic street circuits so that drivers will find choosing a setup difficult. Swansea’s recent developments will mean the circuit will look clean and modern, but it still maintains an urban section. Overtaking may be a bit difficult with a couple of potential spots at Turn 1 and Turn 17, but then it wouldn’t be a true street circuit if that wasn’t the case. I really like it – it’s like a mix of Durban and Valencia.