Montjuic Assetto Corsa Lotus 72D

Montjuïc Circuit in Assetto Corsa: Fast, Flowing, Fearsome

Assetto Corsa

One of the early homes of the Spanish Grand Prix, the Montjuïc circuit has not seen a Formula One race since 1975. Out of use entirely since 1986, Assetto Corsa offers a great opportunity to experience the fast and extremely dangerous track in sim racing.

As street circuits are all the rage in modern F1, it is worth remembering that they are not a new invention. In fact, much of racing’s early history took place on public roads, though not on city streets as frequently as today. The Montjuïc circuit, however, was one of those early tracks inside a city (and a park at the same time, like the Prinzenpark circuit in Braunschweig). Springing into action as a circuit for the first time in 1933, the track laid out on Barcelona’s streets has quite a bit of history to look back on.

Parts of the layout were first used in 1932. Situated on a wooded hill, Montjuïc is not your typical street circuit. Instead, it is fast, flowing and has quite some elevation change – and even a small jump if your car is fast enough. The circuit overlooks Barcelona’s harbor and passes by the Olympic stadium, making for a rather scenic location.

Just by looking at the map, you would not exactly think of Montjuïc as a street circuit. Image credit: racingcircuits.info

Montjuïc: Short F1 History

In theory, the track has everything it needs to be absolutely spectacular for an F1 race, then. And spectacular they were – but for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, Formula One’s history at Montjuïc is closely linked to tragedy. Two events in particular stand out from the four Grands Prix held there between 1969 and 1975.

F1 made its debut at Montjuïc in 1969. Teams had just started to experiment with wings on their cars the year prior, resulting some rather adventurous constructions. Many cars sported wings mounted on struts high above the actual chassis, adding downforce – but also fragility. Two of the sports superstars of the time soon found out.

Graham Hill was the first to suffer a broken rear wing at the end of the start/finish straight. The Englishman was lucky to escape the hefty crash unscathed, but he had to watch an almost identical incident happen to his Lotus teammate Jochen Rindt. The German racing under an Austrian license only suffered a concussion and a broken nose.

Jacky Ickx almost joined them, but did not suffer an accident when his wing supports broke. Victory went to Jackie Stewart ahead of Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise. After the race, the high wings were prohibited, with maximum heights for them being introduced.

Two Calm Races Before The Tragic Storm

The 1971 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuïc was without any big incidents, but notably was the first-ever F1 race in which slicks were used. Stewart took victory ahead of Ickx and Chris Amon. Similarly, Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1973 victory did not see any major crashes, the Brazilian triumphin ahead of François Cevert and George Follmer. It would turn out to be the calm before the storm.

Two years later, at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, tragedy struck. The race is known for Jochen Mass’ only F1 win and Lella Lombardi being the first woman to score a point in F1. Add in safety concerns raised by the drivers coupled with a threat not to race if they were not adressed, resulting in their cars being seized and held inside the Montjuïc stadium by Spanish police, and those three elements alone would make for a memorable occasion.

As the race did finally go ahead despite the safety issues not fully taken care of (prompting reigning World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi to do only three laps in protest), the ugly side of motor racing reared its head. On lap 26, the rear wing of Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 broke. The car cleared the barriers and into the crowd. While Stommelen escaped with multiple fractures, four spectators were killed.

Half Points & F1 Farewell

Shortly afterwards, the race was stopped. Drivers scored half points, as not enough of the 75-lap distance had been covered to warrant full points. Formula One never returned to Montjuïc. Motorcycle racing continued until 1986, but ceased after that due to further fatalities and grave injuries.

Since then, the Montjuïc circuit has not been used for motor racing. Its streets are still intact today, and the city of Barcelona marked the layout in the early 2000s. Today, it is hard to imagine Formula One cars pounding around those streets.

The latest update to the circuit introduced full night lighting. Image credit: Rainmaker_87 on RaceDepartment

Montjuïc In Assetto Corsa

Luckily, we have sim racing to preserve the experience. Rainmaker_87 on RaceDepartment has uploaded an Assetto Corsa version of the track as it was in 1975. The track itself has its roots in a Grand Prix Legends version, which they have converted polished for Assetto Corsa.

Its original age may shine through in places, most notably the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya inside the circuit. Nevertheless, the track itself is extremely fun due to its flowing layout. With danger not being a factor in sim racing, Montjuïc is certainly worth a virtual visit.

Many sim racers may not be aware of the F1 history inside Barcelona. Of course, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which is actually located in nearby Montmeló, has been the home of the Spanish Grand Prix since 1991. But to appreciate the history of the event in the area a bit more (and to get a feel for how crazy dangerous it was), chucking around an early 70s F1 car on the streets of Montjuïc is well worth doing.

Catching air is always worrisome in a racing car – even more so in the middle of the turn 1 braking zone at Montjuïc.

Rainmaker_87’s conversion has seen two updates since it was uploaded in July of 2023, the latest being released in September. They added new upscaled textures, a shader overhaul and night lighting. Further updates should result in even better visuals. Besides, who has time for sightseeing while racing a street course at ludicrous speeds?

Have you tried keeping your car out of the armco at Montjuïc in Assetto Corsa already? Let us know your thoughts on the track on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!

Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia. I have been working in sim racing since 2021 after previously working with pro and amateur sports teams and athletes for a daily newspaper in Wolfsburg. Nothing gets me more excited than motor racing, especially with the beastly machines of the past. A third pedal and h-shifter are not just options for a rig, they are mandatory to me. Avid fan of the IndyCar series (modern and CART/pre-split).