Beloved US racing circuit with historic Andretti links goes up for sale

Oliver Harden
A wide shot of Tom Cruise driving a Red Bull F1 car at Willow Springs with a helicopter overhead

Willow Springs hosted Tom Cruise's run in a Red Bull F1 car back in 2011

The legendary Willow Springs circuit has been put up for sale, leaving the beloved US racing venue facing an uncertain future.

Nicknamed The Fastest Track in the West, Willow Springs has hosted various forms of motor racing since it first opened in 1953, quickly establishing itself as one of the most demanding and challenging circuits in US motorsport – with Michael Andretti holding the unofficial outright lap record.

Willow Springs up for sale

While never hosting an F1 race, the Californian venue hosted NASCAR Cup races in 1956/57 and was used for the filming of the Ford v Ferrari movie – starring Christian Bale as Ken Miles, one of the great names of motor racing in the 1950s and ’60s who co-designed the circuit – in 2019.

Willow Springs was also the scene of Tom Cruise’s test behind the wheel of a Red Bull F1 car in 2011, in which the world-famous actor reached a top speed of 181mph (291 kmh), 4mph slower than Cruise’s instructor David Coulthard, a winner of 13 grands prix.

The entire Willow Springs facility spreads across 600 acres and has as many as seven different track configurations, the most famous being Big Willow, a 2.5-miles course which has remained unchanged for 70 years.

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The overall track record belongs to Michael Andretti, who recorded a lap of 1:06.050 behind the wheel of a CART IndyCar in March 1987.

According to the circuit’s official website, Andretti’s time was two tenths faster than Nigel Mansell’s fastest lap in an F1 car in February 1982.

A go-kart circuit, skidpad, short oval courses and rallycross and off-road tracks are also contained within the facility.

Willow Springs is a particular favourite among motorcyclists due to its high average speeds, sweeping corners and elevation changes, with motor-racing enthusiasts often flocking to the venue to participate in track days.

It was sold for just $116,000 in 1962 to Bill Huth, who had intended to convert the main straight into a dragstrip before realising it was too short. Mr Huth’s relatives have continued to prop up the operation since his death at the age of 91 in 2015.

While the circuit’s somewhat rundown appearance, with sunbleached outbuildings and cracks in the track surface, is considered a key part of its appeal to long-term enthusiasts, a change of ownership could open the door to develop and modernise Willow Springs with fresh investment.

Three United States circuits feature on the current F1 calendar, with Las Vegas joining the schedule in 2023 following the additions of Miami (2022) and the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas (2012).

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