Monday 29 August 2011

Lost Track: Circuits of Yore III - Bremgarten, Switzerland

Train journey to Bern was made several times before, but I always missed going out of the station and take the bus that would take me to Bremgarten, a small village north of Bern.
I missed the visit in 2009 due to numerous reasons, and I missed it again in 2010. This time around, I was determined to make a visit to this village and so I did. I wondered how it would have been sixty years ago when it hosted the Swiss GP in the Formula One calendar. The place was scenic and I went about exploring few areas of this village.
Bremgarten was the place that hosted Formula One and other Motorsport events under the umbrella of Swiss Grand Prix. Built originally as the motorcycle circuit in 1931, this track was built around the forests and hosted the first automobile race from 1934.
In spite of Bremgarten being accused as a treacherous circuit, it was a regular feature in the calendar of motorsports, managed to hold successfully the Swiss GP and Grand Prix of Bern (motorcycle races). Popularity was such that, when the Motorcycle championships which began in 1949 and the very next year, Formula One; both included Bremgarten to their respective racing calendars.
Giuseppe Farina won the inaugural Swiss GP on his way to claim the first ever Formula One World Championships. Juan Manuel Fangio was the winner in 1951. The going was fine till the news of 1955 Le Mans disaster hit the headlines across the world. Around 80 spectators were killed when a car driven by Pierre Levegh lost control. The car parts of Levegh’s Mercedes flew all over and caused what is considered as the most catastrophic accident in the history of motorsports.
The LeMans 24 hours racing disaster had serious consequences with several of the organisations were asked serious questions with regards to safety. Mercedes as a tribute to the victims withdrew from the race immediately and did not take part in the motorsports for the next 30 years.
Switzerland, known for its non-violence in the contemporary history took a step forward and held several talks immediately to look at the implications of such a disaster. Any chance of Swiss GP at Bremgarten returning to the F1 was closed once in for all when senate finally banned motorsports in 1958 on the grounds of the sport being unsafe for the spectators.
Juan Manuel Fangio driving his Mercedes around this 7.28 km circuit was the last winner at Bremgarten. Two races were held under the name of Swiss GP in France at Dijon circuit in 1975 and 1982. Clay Regazzoni, from the canton of Ticino (Switzerland) won the 1975 Swiss GP while Keke Rosberg won his only GP in 1982 enroute to his World Championship title.
I walked across the roads of Bremgarten recollecting all the knowledge I had on Swiss GP and wondered how it would be to have a race now in Switzerland. It turns out; the Swiss Government isn’t very keen in spite of a brief moment when overturning the ban was considered seriously.

Back in 2007, The Swiss Council of States (known as the Senat) had examined the law passed by the National Council to alter the terms of the Road Traffic Law of 1958 which prohibits circuit racing in Switzerland. The proposal was to allow racing on closed circuits in the country. The Council of States rejected to new law and although the legislation went back to the National Council with little hope, the law was never passed.
So on that note, and to add that Formula One is moving to different parts of the world, it is very unlikely Switzerland is going to build any circuits in the foreseeable future, at least not ones on which racing will take place.

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