Written by Hugh Waring, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Balaton Park Circuit, the latest addition to Hungary's motorsport landscape, officially opened its doors on Tuesday, marking a significant milestone in the country's racing history. Situated next to the picturesque Balaton Lake, the circuit stands out, the highest FIA standard race track constructed in Central Europe in over 15 years.
While the circuit has applied for an FIA Grade 2 licence, which will allow it to accommodate junior single-seater categories and sportscar racing, it has been built to meet the demanding specifications of a Grade 1 circuit. Spanning 2.55 miles in an anti-clockwise direction, the track features a thrilling combination of six right-hand and ten left-hand corners, and provides an exciting challenge for drivers.
The Balaton Park circuit has a permanent seating capacity of 10,000, and can expand its spectator accommodation to 120,000 by utilising temporary grandstands, ensuring a memorable experience for motorsport enthusiasts. The circuit's inaugural event, Porsche on Track, is scheduled for the German automaker's 75th-anniversary celebrations. Following that will be a one-day Festival of Dreams, on June 10th, which is set to captivate racing fans at the newly unveiled facility.
Anticipating international racing events in the 2024 season, Balaton Park Circuit has attracted over €200 million in investments. As part of the comprehensive motorsport complex, a four-star hotel and museum will accompany the race track, providing a complete experience for visitors and showcasing the rich heritage of motorsport.
The opening ceremony took place in the presence of Giancarlo Fisichella, a renowned Formula 1 driver with three race victories to his name. Sharing his impressions of the circuit, Fisichella expressed his admiration, stating, "Driving Balaton Park Circuit for the first time, I was impressed by its character. The track really has it all – a thrilling blend of high-speed corners, challenging hairpins, and cool chicanes. It's a track that flows nicely, giving you a great racing feeling. The first corner and the end of the back straight are prime spots for overtakes. All in all, Balaton Park is a treat to drive."
Heading the circuit as its president is Chanoch Nissany, father of accomplished Formula 2 driver Roy Nissany. Chanoch made an appearance during a free practice session at the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix, for the Minardi team. Gianpaolo Matteucci, a board member of Balaton Park Circuit, expressed pride in the accomplishment, saying, "We are very proud to be celebrating today the official opening of Balaton Park Circuit, a unique project that began as a dream and is now a reality thanks to the unwavering commitment of Balaton Park Group."
The development of the circuit has spanned four years, during which the construction team dedicated itself to ensuring the highest standards of safety, innovation, and environmental sustainability. Designed by Hungarian architect Ferenc Gulacsi, the track embodies these principles while offering an exhilarating experience for drivers. Reflecting on his vision for the circuit, Gulacsi stated, "I designed the course with three aspects in mind: safety, a challenge for the competitors, and sustainability. I am glad we arrived at this point today, that the track is ready for use. The first flag can be waved."