Address: Circuit Urbano, Punta del Este, Uruguay
Circuit type: Temporary street course
Dubbed the 'Monte Carlo of South America', Punta del Este's streets have been welcoming racing cars since the early 1980s. In reality, the city is a tourist haven with white sandy beaches, so comparison's with Australia's Surfers Paradise might be more appropriate.
Racing first began here in 1981, when a round of the Argentine Formula 2 Championship was organised on a course based on the streets around the Mansa beach. The championship later became the pan-South American Codasur F2 series, though the result was largely the same; Argentine ace Guillermo Maldonado was the victor in 1981, '82, '83 and '85, a clean sweep in the F2 races only being prevented by the victory of Uruguayan Peter Passadore in 1984 and fellow Argentine William Kissling in 1986, Coincidentally, Maldonado is the name of the region and the neighbouring city to Punta del Esta.
A switch to Formula 3 followed in 1987 and 1988, both victories being taken by Leonel Friedrich after which the racing engines fell silent as the series moved on elsewhere.
The city wasn't completely done with motorsport, however, and in mid 2000's a group of local businessmen began moves to bring racing back. As before, they looked across the bay to Argentina and tried to tempt the wildly popular TC2000 touring car series. Attempts for 2005 failed, but the group persevered and in 2007 the series made its debut on a new course adjacent to the Brava Beach. Besides TC 2000, the event featured races for the Renault Megane Cup and Formula Renault Argentina, as well as a display of several cars from the FIA European GT3 Championship.
The course was narrow and twisty, though featured several high speed sections which only served to highlight the proximity of the unyielding concrete barriers even more. Martin Basso won in his Ford Focus, a feat he repeated when the series returned in 2008, albeit on a slightly modified and faster course.
The race was scheduled to return for a third time in 2009, planned for the 3rd and 4th of October. However, an outbreak of swine flu prompted the rescheduling of a street race in Santa Fe to this date and the Uruguyan round had to be cancelled. The TC2000 organisers made amends by scheduling the first round of the 2010 series at Punta del Este. This used the same course as 2008, save for the addition of a temporary chicane at the end of the start finish straight. This bypassed by the cars on lap one of the races but used in all subsequent laps. Reigning champion Jose Maria Lopez got his title defence off to a good start with victory for Honda.
The touring cars did not return in subsequent years but in 2014, city officials struck a new deal with organisers of the new Formula E championship. A race for the all-electric cars was scheduled for December 13, using a new course slightly further up the beach but using some of the same roads as the previous TC2000 circuit. Closely lined with concrete walls and a number of tight chicanes, the first race proved a success, even if sand on the track was an ever-present factor. The inaugural ePrix was won by Sébastien Buemi for the e.dams-Renault team.
For 2015, minor changes were made which saw the first chicane reverse direction to become a left-right flip flop, increasing safety at the pit lane exit which is now further away from the racing line. Two other chicanes have also been slightly slowed. Drivers remain complimentary about the track, despite the difficulty in overtaking. "It's the most unique track that we experience with a lot of quick, tight chicanes. It's a very high-speed circuit, which I enjoy, " says Buemi.
The Punta del Este street circuit is located in Punte del Este, Uruguay. Carrasco International Airport is the largest airport in Uruguay, situated 115km from Punta del Este, and handles most international flights for the country. From here there is a regular bus transfer to Punta del Este which takes around one and a half hours. Nearer to the city is Capitan de Corbeta Carlos A. Curbelo International Airport, which is a few miles up the coastal road. It receives mostly domestic flights, though there are occasional international services from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
The circuit itself is located along the beachfront, with the pits and paddock based along the Rambla Lorenzo Batlle Pacheco.