Biķernieki is Latvia's only permanent motor racing circuit has been
undergoing a revival in recent years
The idea of first creating a track on the outskirts of the Latvian
capital Rīga was first suggested in the 1950s. A temporary course around
MežPark was being used into the mid-'60s but even as this was in
operation, the local car enthusiasts were planning a replacement. With
the support of the Republican Federation of motorsport, between 1958 and
1961, motorcycle racers Eduard Kiope and Kārlis Ošiņš began a tour of
other facilities across the Soviet Union to get a measure of what would
be required to create a good circuit.
Returning to Rīga, they selected a site within Biķernieki forest on the outskirts of the city, partly due its proximity to the large population and partly for the role the surrounding forest would have in reducing noise nuisance. It was also felt that sections between the trees would help to reduce crosswinds which were dangerous for motorcycle racers.
A major motorsport complex is planned
In 1962, the track designers began their work under the direction of chief engineer Peteris Dzenis and with the support of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Latvian SSR. It was decided that the circuit would actually comprise two distinct layouts, with shared pit and paddock facilities. The 'Ring of Skill' (Meistarības Aplis in Latvian) would primarily be aimed at motorcycle racing, while the 'Speed Ring' (Ātruma Aplis) would be more suitable for car racing. The two elements could be joined together to create a larger 'Combined Ring' (Lielais Apvienotais Aplis), with corners of varying radiuses, without long straights but with some elevation changes which made the most of the topography of the forest. A fourth, short course, referred to as the Oval course (Ovāls) was also possible.
Design work was completed in January 1965 and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the Republic formed a committee for the construction of the complex Biķernieki. In reality, much of the work was actually performed by volunteer enthusiasts, including drivers, members of the Central Motor Club and students of the Rīga Polytechnic Institute.
There were major difficulties to overcome. Considerable logging was required through the forest to create the path for the two circuits, while the area of the pits, paddock and associated kart circuit proved to be exceptionally marshy, thanks to a number of underground springs. Complete draining was required, with excavations down to seven metres then filled with huge amounts of sand. Nevertheless by the autumn of 1965 work to lay the asphalt on the 'Ring of Skill' began, with the final work to make it suitable for racing being completed in June 1966.
Competitions begin and the track flourishes
The first competitions, for both motorcycle and cars, were held at Biķernieki on 30-31 July 1966 on the newly-completed 'Ring of Skill'. Kiopa and Osins were among the winners on two wheels, while Jakov Sisman (Group A - GAS 21) and Bruno Erdmanis (Group B - Moskvich 407) took the car races. Soon all racing would transfer from Meza Park, including the famous Amber Trophy races for Volga cars, which saw the best drivers from across the Soviet Union competing in what became Biķernieki's signature event.
In the years following, Biķernieki established itself as the premier motor racing facility in the whole of the Soviet Union, helped by a well-constructed track, good organisation and the close proximity of the Baltic states. Car racing concentrated almost exclusively on the 'Speed Ring', while motorbikes tended to use the 'Ring of Skill', though would occasionally take to the full circuit or the 'Speed Ring'.
During the 1970s. there was a gradual improvement of the sports complex. In 1974, near to the start-finish straight, a stadium was built for the locally popular sport of motoball (essentially, five-a-side football played on motorbikes). Two years later a speedway track was added around its perimeter. That same year spectator bleachers were put up at several corners (Pie Ozola, Elkonis and Slimnīca) with concrete walls or embankments in front to protect them.
Noise becomes a threat after all
By the end of the decade, a new threat had emerged with the construction of a new housing development close to the eastern edge of the forest. The numerous apartment blocks, built in the standard Soviet style, ran alongside the Speed Ring and start/finish areas and it was not long before noise complaints were being registered. The solution was to impose a 90dB limit on all competitions, with the threat of disqualification on any vehicles breaking the limit. Testing outside of race weekends was also not no longer permitted.
In 1981, along the route of the site closest to the residential buildings (Pie Ozola and Elkonis corners) a noise protection wall was built, though the threat of enforced closure still hung in the air. It took the intervention of the Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Fleet (DOSAAF) and the Republican Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to put a final full stop on these rumours, securing the circuit's immediate future.
Upgrades were made in 1984 to bring the circuit up to FIA standards in order to return the track to the schedule of the Friendship of Socialist Countries Cup. Concrete walls and chain link fencing were installed at key spots (it would eventually extend around the length of the whole lap of both courses by 1987), run-off areas were expanded and an electronic scoreboard and speed trap display were also added along the start-finish straight.
Then in 1987, the kart circuit was rebuilt to a new design to bring it closer to international standards, which also involved the creation of an extended pit lane and revised paddock arrangements. Elsewhere, the construction of new stands at Pie Ozola and Elkonis corners began, which not only provided better facilities for spectators, but also provided an additional and more effective sound barrier.
The construction of the stands was completed in 1989 and in the same year, work began on similar stands at Seiler and Smilšu Kalns corners, though only a portion of the construction at the Seiler corner was ever completed. Likewise, plans for new race control buildings and a media centre were never realised, as the Soviet economic situation grew increasingly worse.
Improvements breathe new life into the circuit
Happily, the track's good initial construction, interesting layout and location with the Baltic region would prove its saviour. In 2011, the circuit passed into the care of the CSDD (Road Traffic Safety Directorate) and much effort has been made to restore its former glory.
The speedway track and its grandstands have been restored, the race control building has been reconstructed, the main straight and first corners have been repaved in 2015, the kerbs have been changed and the track infrastructure has been improved.
Swiss safety equipment manufacturer Geobrugg also gifted the track its latest design of double reinforced concrete barriers, which extend from the pit lane and around the first two corners of the course. Barriers similar to these will soon also be added at several Norwegian and Chinese motorsports tracks as a result of the interest shown in the Biķernieki installations.
All of the improvements have borne fruit; Biķernieki is now enjoying
and international profile
1.THE FIRST DRIFT COMPETITION IN BIKERNIEKI WAS HELD WAY BACK IN 2005 AT THE SPEEDWAY STADIUM 2.FOR THE FIRST TIME ON THE BIG TRACK, OR IN THE CONFIGURATION KNOWN TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD,
THE #ITS RIGA BABY RACE HAPPENED IN 20093.SINCE 2010, INTERNATIONAL DRIFT COMPETITIONS HAS BEEN HELD IN BIKERNIĆE, AS THE FIRST
NORTHERN EUROPEAN DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP(NEZ), WHICH IS ALSO RUNNING CURRENTLY.4.FROM 2012, THE POPULAR ALL STAR DRIFT SERIES HAPPENED IN LATVIA
5.DRIFT MASTERS EUROPEAN DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP IS HELD IN LATVIA FROM 2016
IN 2021, LATVIA-BIKERNIEKI, WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY AND TRACK OUTSIDE JAPAN, TO HOST THE FIA INTERCONTINENTAL DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP
SINCE 2010, SEVERAL DRIFT STAGES FOR BOTH THE LATVIA AND BALTIC DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIPS AND THE LATVIA DRIFT CUP HAVE BEEN
HELD IN BIKERNIEKI RACE TRACL, AND THE TRACK IS DEFINITELY CONSIDERED THE HOME OF LATVIA DRIFT,
THE TRACK OFFERS MORE THAN 6 DIFFERENT CONFIGURATION ON BASE TRACK.