CONSTRUCTION OF U.S. GRAND PRIX FACILITIES MOVES INTO HIGH GEAR INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 16, 1999 - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is wasting little time preparing for arrival of the first Formula One U.S. Grand Prix race in 2000. ...
CONSTRUCTION OF U.S. GRAND PRIX FACILITIES MOVES INTO HIGH GEAR
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 16, 1999 - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is wasting little time preparing for arrival of the first Formula One U.S. Grand Prix race in 2000. Barely two months after Speedway President Tony George and Bernie Ecclestone, head of the Formula One Constructors Association, jointly announced on Dec. 1 that an F1 race would take place at the track, workmen are scheduled to begin laying foundations Feb. 17 for the 36 two-story garages and 12 suites that will be built inside the south end of the pit area where part of the Tower Terrace grandstands once stood. The grandstands were demolished as the first stage of the huge construction project that will return F1 racing to the United States for the first time since 1991. "This is the largest construction projection in history (of the track)," George said. "It may seem overwhelming, but I am sure that we can and will accomplish it." Also already under construction is the new Pagoda, replacing the Control Tower that stood on the inside of the track at the start-finish line since 1956, as well as initial preparation of the infield portion of the F1 circuit. This is part of an eight-phase program that by the summer of 2000 will dramatically change the world's most famous auto racing facility into an auto racing showcase of the third millennium. Kevin Forbes, Speedway director of engineering and construction, is the maestro conducting this symphony of synergism. "The road course is well underway," Forbes said. "We are hopeful we will have the road course at a point where we can put cars on the track in October." The eight construction phases are: 1. Road course. 2. Garages and suites. 3. Tower extension. 4. Reconstruction of the pit lane from the start-finish line south. 5. Construction of the media and broadcast facility. 6. Construction of the formal television support buildings for Formula One Associations offices. 7. Extension of two north end tunnels. 8. Construction of replacement facilities of those lost in demolition of the Tower Terrace. The Speedway is undertaking the entire project with the guidance and approval of Formula One personnel, including Charlie Whiting, F1 race director and safety delegate. "We've had them over here, and we've been over there (England)," Forbes said. "We e-mail and fax electronic information to them on a weekly basis." A strong advocate of the U.S. Grand Prix coming to the Speedway is Irishman Derek Daly, a former Formula One driver and participant in six Indy 500s. Now living in the Indianapolis area, his chief mechanic for his first F1 race in 1978 at England's Silverstone track was Whiting. "Now the U.S. Grand Prix will have a permanent home and hopefully will have one for years to come," Daly said. "The next step is for the World Championship to have an American driver." "The curiosity level will be higher than the interest level in the early years (of the race), which will fill the grandstands. The interest level will take years to build, because America has to grow up with it. But more important than that, what will accelerate the interest in America will be a young American driver." He has one in mind -- Jeff Shafer, now competing in the Toyota Atlantic series. As series rookie in 1998, this Indianapolis resident won one pole and placed 18th in the final standings. The F1 garages will reside just east of the new three-lane, 60-foot-wide pitting area being constructed for the sophisticated F1 cars. Team officials and guests will use twelve luxury suites atop the garages. Forbes said these suites can be used for hospitality and safety offices, etc., at the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. There will be separate Victory Podiums for the American races and Formula One. The ceremonies differ in that the Indy and Brickyard winners only appear with the car in the victory celebration area, while F1 sends its first three finishing drivers to a podium for some champagne spraying. The international media room will seat 400. Special buildings will house Ecclestone's worldwide television operations. Forbes indicated that the F1 starting grid, which makes one circuit of the track and then comes to a halt for a standing start, will extend 780 feet south of the current start-finish line. This will place the last row about where the current pits terminate and short of the entrance to the current Turn One. Forbes also revealed one other innovation that will please fans. There is a famed yard of bricks at the start-finish line that remains from when the bricks first were laid at the new track in the fall of 1909. Now the yard of bricks will extend out of the rear of the new Pagoda for some distance in a park-like area, and fans can have their picture taken standing on them.