The Varano Melegari racetrack was born in late 1969 on the initiative of a group of local enthusiasts led by Ennio Dallara, Romano Meggi, Giuseppe Dalla Chiesa, mayor Giorgio Bonzani and engineer Giampaolo Dallara; the first track, whose asphalt was laid by the company of Cavalier Ennio Dallara, the engineer’s father, with the involvement of several local truck drivers, measures only 550 meters and, apart from a small variant on the north side, practically borders the town’s soccer field.
The first competitions held soon afterwards feature small Formula K 250s along with “Tris” races in which only three competitors at a time take to the track and compete in preliminary rounds.
Despite the dissent of part of the population, which organized a “sheet” protest, the development continued, and in 1971 the first lengthening was carried out, bringing the track to a length of 1,200 meters.
Meanwhile, the racetrack has been named after St. Christopher and management has been taken over by the Pro Loco; in the summer Ferrari one of the 312 B Formula 1 cars arrives.
Jacky Icks after stringing together a few laps, makes a braking mistake and goes off the track in the sharp curve near the bridge, a curve that from that time on is named after the Belgian ace.
In 1972 the lengthening of the straight and the moving forward of the “Parabolica” became a reality, and on March 26 the official inauguration took place with the first Automobile Club Parma Trophy; the infrastructure was still lacking: the timekeepers were housed on a farm wagon, but step by step the racetrack grew by hosting tests and races for cars and motorcycles.
One of the most unforgettable is surely that of June 2, 1976, when to raise funds for the Friuli region hit by a terrible earthquake, Alfa Romeo and the weekly magazine Autosprint manage to organize a challenge between the most famous Formula 1 drivers, so Lauda, Regazzoni, Fittipaldi, Depailler, Schekter, Peterson, Lafitte, Jarier, Merzario and others put on a show with the Alfa Suds of the eponymous Trophy.
After the pioneering phase, from 1981 the “Society of Motor Sports Management” (SO.GE.S.A.) was created, which headed by then-president Gian Carlo Saracchi and director Romano Meggi, took care of the business at the managerial level.
In 1983 the official name gave way to “Riccardo Paletti” the young Formula 1 driver who grew up competitively in Varano itself and lost his life in the Canadian Grand Prix.
Although it is not a competition, it is worth mentioning the record entered in the “Guinness” of records obtained by the three Parmesans Norberto Naummi, Roberto Ghillani and Maurizio Foppiani who, in order to raise funds for the association “Noi per Loro” (Us for Them), rode continuously without stopping even for supplies for 23 consecutive days in August 1986.
Beginning in 1991, former Formula 1 driver Andrea De Adamich permanently established the International Safe Driving Center, which organizes courses with Alfa Romeo and Maserati cars.
In these years that have seen the baton passed from Romano Meggi to his son Alessandro, the asphalt of San Cristoforo first and Riccardo Paletti later, has seen many cars make their debut, from the first Dallara Sports to the many versions of Formula 3 born at a very short distance from the racetrack, and still cars of all kinds and of many different brands.
The 2000s marked a radical change in the circuit: a date to remember is February 22, 2002 when the new track was officially opened, increasing from 1,800 meters to 2,375.
Over the years the track is further modified thus assuming its current appearance with the track measuring 2350 meters, growing steadily also at the level of infrastructure, with the adaptation of the paddock, the construction of an office building and press room, the pits and the restaurant, both at the level of safety with works that allowed obtaining the Fia inter-national license.
Also since 2002, a permanent track has been built for Supermotard races (remember the holding of stages of the European and Italian Championships), recognized by the environment as one of the fastest and most technical in the world.
The racetrack has been, and still is, a gymnasium and the first important stage for many young people who later became established champions such as Alessandro Zanardi, Giancarlo Fisichella, Alessandro Nannini, Luca Badoer, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica, Nico Hulkenberg, not forgetting world champions Jacques Villenueve, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg who took their first steps in Formula 3 at Varano.
Currently, the Varano Autodrome, hosts competition for motorcycles and cars (Italian Speed Car Championship, Motoestate Trophy, MiniGp) as well as prestigious events (ASI Moto Show, Formula SAE), free practice for road and racing cars and motorcycles, Drifting, Supermotard, as well as test drives and new vehicle presentations.
With the development of new technologies in motorsports, the racetrack has become a testing venue for many Formula E teams in recent years, thanks to its track configuration and new configurations that are specially installed at the request of the teams.
It is also the site of development of the new project of Eng. Dallara, the DALLARA STRADALE, which is tested almost daily on the Riccardo Paletti track.