Autódromo de Benguela, Angola
Apart from insomnia and vitamin deficiency, one of the odd side effects of racing simulations – such as the Grand Prix series and rFactor – is the curiosity triggered by foreign and unknown tracks.
Through game communities and websites, a “driver” can play with and explore many circuits from the world over that will never find it itself on any international racing calendar.
Many of these unknown tracks tend to represent minor or local racing leagues with drivers that rarely penetrate outside of their respective boundaries and the Autódromo de Benguela on the Praia Morena beach in Angola is just such a circuit.
Originally, touring cars and club class machinery ran around the town of Benguela, but it was in May 1972 that the 4km long permanent circuit was opened; however as with much of the African continent, various economic and political problems had kept the arena virtually abandoned for the most part over the next nearly 30 years.
It was a great loss considering the layout possesses some truly fantastic corners – in particular the nearly flat turns 4-5 section and difficult last two corners are stand outs, followed by a very long straight for overtaking.
Initially the circuit was designed for the Springbok Sportscar Series which was popular in some African territories throughout the 1960′s, but even that dried up once many European competitors – turned off by fear and the threat of violence – stopped coming in later years.
While Kyalami in South Africa held Formula 1 events right up until the early 1993, it wasn’t until 2001 that the circuit reappeared on the international calendar as it hosted the inaugural Motorcycle Grand Prix of Benguela.
Unfortunately, since Angola is not part of the African Motorcycle Union, the Benguela circuit could not run any officially sanctioned events, meaning that any races that did take part were most likely organised by the competitors themselves. As of 2004, the circuit no longer appears to be operational; although the area around the track and nearby towns are continuing to develop at a rapid pace.
Now the Ombaka National Football Stadium sits in the town where the course once stood supreme.
It is unfortunate that Benguela Raceway will not be part Angola’s future development, but the political and economic difficulties that the country continues to endure may keep motor racing away from Angola for many years to come.