IMS staff/employees switch from Indy 500 to USGP

NO REST FOR IMS EMPLOYEES IN OVAL-TO-ROAD COURSE CONVERSION INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 8, 2005 -- The United States Grand Prix doesn't take place until June 17-19, but one race this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is almost finished...


INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 8, 2005 -- The United States Grand Prix doesn't take place until June 17-19, but one race this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is almost finished -- the race against time.

And the winner, for the second straight year, is the IMS Facilities Department.

The three-event schedule at IMS since 2000 saw a major change when the United States Grand Prix was moved from September to mid-June in 2004, just three weeks after the traditional Memorial Day weekend date of the Indianapolis 500. That schedule continues this year, and the IMS Facilities department is figuratively running a marathon through the month of May until the USGP takes place on Sunday, June 19.

IMS crews and an army of contractors are in the middle of the "Turnaround," as the Facilities Department calls it. The Turnaround consists of the track conversion from the oval configuration used during the Indianapolis 500 to the road-course configuration used during the United States Grand Prix, and many other tasks to prepare the Speedway for the 2005 USGP.

For 2004, the Speedway staff was determined to complete a track conversion project in 14 days that took 53 days in previous years. Thanks to good weather in early June, the project was done far enough ahead of schedule that the Speedway staff actually got a day off -- their first in a month and a half.

IMS crews approached the 2005 conversion as if they had even less time, said Kevin Forbes, IMS director of engineering and construction.

"If we thought it was so easy last year, and that we could do this again without any effort, then we'd find ourselves way behind," Forbes said. "Our approach this year is to act as if we have less time."

Forbes noted that Facilities crews were delayed by rain only one day during the Turnaround in 2004, so crews are making the best of sunny weather while it lasts. Indiana weather is noted for sunny mornings and unpredictable afternoon "pop-up" showers and thunderstorms due to heat and humidity.

The long list of tasks for the Turnaround ranges from moving 130 8-ton concrete barriers to create the USGP pit lane and close certain roads on the infield of the circuit, to installing fencing around Formula One's paddock, to minute details such as placing proper menu signage in the Media Center.

There are also 60 6-ton barriers and 60 4-ton concrete barriers, used in various locations on the circuit, to move. In total, there are nearly 3.3 million pounds of concrete barriers to move.

Two temporary infield grandstands must be built from the ground up. The grandstands each sit on primary roads in the infield, so they must be removed quickly after the event.

Additional tasks include:

* At the outset of road-course preparation, crews must remove the temporary walls and catch fencing on the inside of the oval's Turn 2 and Turn 4, where the road course enters and exits the oval portion of the track, respectively. Heavy machinery is required to move the walls as each section weighs 16,000 pounds.

* Tire barriers are installed along the road course Turn 12, where it enters the IMS oval, and signboards and safety barriers are installed at the road course Turn 1. There are 43,933 tires used to construct the tire barriers at various spots around the 2.605-mile circuit, and approximately 10,000 of those tires are moved during the Turnaround.

* Several roads in the infield must be closed with concrete barriers and tire barriers to create the infield backstretch of the road course, and 13-foot tall catch fencing must be erected.

* The Speedway's oval-track flag stand is removed, and the overhead gantry that holds the Formula One starting lights 20 feet over the track surface is erected at the start/finish line.

* More than 1,000 feet of catch fencing must be removed from along the inside of the oval pit lane, while another 1,000 feet of fencing must be added along the outside of the Formula One pit lane.

* The striping on the road course is different than the oval because the traffic is moving in a different direction, so crews have to black out the striping on the oval and install new striping that would indicate the alignment of the road course.

* The starting grid for the Formula One cars must be repainted.

* More than 2,000 feet of fencing is put in place to close off the paddock, television compound and other secure areas.

* All of the pit-side Gasoline Alley garages and suites, and the Legends Row building -- located directly behind the garages -- must be emptied so Formula One teams can move in their equipment. The "A" garages in Gasoline Alley -- where Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series teams such as A.J. Foyt Racing and Vision Racing prepared their cars for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 -- are thoroughly cleaned so they can become hospitality space for Formula One teams, with first-class cuisine on the menu.

* Temporary signage, specified by Formula One to keep the paddock in similar form to all other events around the world, must be put in place.

As of midday Tuesday, June 7, Forbes said that Turnaround crews were "exactly where they need to be." The road course was essentially in place, with only a few sections of white lines, concrete barriers and tire barriers yet to be put in place.

Approximately 100 people -- 50 IMS staff and 50 contractors -- are on the grounds working 10-hour days to complete the Turnaround. The dedicated group of individuals will log approximately 14,000 man-hours of work depending on weather and other factors.


USGP tickets: Tickets for the United States Grand Prix can be purchased online at, or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers A.J. Foyt