The history of Hungarian motor racing did not stop with Ferenc Szisz. On 21 June 1936, the first Grand Prix race was held in Hungary, in which the only Hungarian entrant, László Hartmann, finished seventh.
In 1950 the Formula 1 World Chamionship became the successor of the Grand Prix series. Due to the political situation after the Second World War, Hungary stopped hosting the most prestigious motor racing events and it was only later, in the early 1960s, that Budapest hosted the Formula Junior and the European Touring Car Championship series. In the early 1980s, FIA chief Bernie Ecclestone decided to take Formula 1 behind the Iron Curtain. Originally, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were considered as possible venues, but the decision-makers could not agree. At the time, Tamás Rohonyi, who came from Budapest and worked with Ecclestone, proposed building a new circuit in Hungary. The redevelopment of Népliget was considered, but in the end it was decided to build a new, separate facility.
Located 19 kilometres from the centre of Budapest, the “Hungaroring” circuit started to built in March 1985 on 73 hectares of land and was completed in just over six months. Using a computer program, the track was designed – for the first time ever – so that every seat in the grandstand had a clear view of the race. The architects were István Papp and Ferenc Gulácsi.
The pitch was finally opened in June 1986. The first Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix was held on 10 August. Despite the fact that the ticket price was several times higher than the average salary, 206,000 people attended the first race, which number was a record at the time. For fans on the communist side of the ‘Iron Curtain’, the Hungarian track was a symbol of life of the West. The facility was guarded by soldiers during the event. The sporting event was televised worldwide and watched by 400 million people.
The track was originally designed for 10 years, but has since been renovated and rebuilt several times. Thanks to the work and money invested, the contract for Formula 1 events has been extended until 2026. Only two F1 circuits (Monaco and Monza) have hosted the world’s top drivers for longer.
The course itself is technically very difficult. It’s narrow and twisty, and the bumpy road surface and often the heat can be a challenge for the riders. The first rain in the history of the Hungarian Grand Prix only fell in 2006! One lap is 4.381 m long, so with seventy laps, the total distance covered in a Formula 1 race is 306.663 km.
The first Hungarian test driver in Formula 1 was Csaba Kesjár. He was born on 9 February 1962 in Budapest. He first competed in go-kart races and then made his debut in German Formula 3. In 1987 he tested a car for the German Zakspeeda racing team. This was the first time a Hungarian driver drove an F1 car, and Csaba Kesjár would probably have been the first Hungarian driver to race in F1, but a sad tragedy intervened. In 1988, at the Nuremberg circuit, his car suffered a brake system failure and crashed into a rubber wall at 200 km/h. His life could not be saved, he was only 26 years old. But his legend lives in the history of Hungarian motor racing.
In the next part of our article series, we will get to know the only Hungarian F1 driver and take a look at the future of Hungarian motorsport.

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