United States GP: Unique Course at IMS

COURSE DESIGNER DESCRIBES SPEEDWAY'S NEW HOME FOR FORMULA ONE INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - Formula One drivers will race north on the main straightaway and then negotiate 13 turns on a 2.55-mile track when the United States Grand Prix makes its...


INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 2, 1998 - Formula One drivers will race north on the main straightaway and then negotiate 13 turns on a 2.55-mile track when the United States Grand Prix makes its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2000.

The course, designed by Kevin Forbes, the Speedway's director of engineering and construction, will wind through the north infield, then south on the current Hulman Boulevard. The cars will then turn east just north of the Hall of Fame Museum and exit back onto the Speedway's oval near Turn 2. The F1 cars then will run clockwise on the oval, or reverse the direction from that taken by Pep Boys Indy Racing League and NASCAR Winston Cup cars, through the South Chute and Turn 1 and up the main straight again.

The infield holes of the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course will not be affected.

"I designed this (road course) six years ago when we were making preparations for the golf course," Forbes said. "It has survived with only a few tweaks."

Work on the multimillion-dollar project that will bring F1 racing to America for the first time since 1991 already has begun. Rooms underneath the Tower Terrace grandstands have been cleared out in preparation for razing of the stands starting in December. Thirty-six F1 garages, topped by 12 suites, will replace them.

The addition of a road course is the first reconfiguration of the Speedway racing facility since it was built in 1909.

A new 400-seat press building will be constructed near the north end of the main straight, between the new Pagoda Tower and the infield Tower Suites. Food and souvenir shops will occupy the ground level. The second level will provide working space for 400 writers, lockers and dark rooms for photographers, a bank of phones for F1 correspondents, interview rooms for both the print and television media and offices for Speedway press officials.

The third tier will be exclusively for 40 TV broadcast booths.

"This would be a pretty big project in the middle of a cornfield, but we have to build it around three of the world's greatest sporting events," Forbes said. "We have to meld, integrate and marry it to what's going on within the existing facilities."

The construction, which will be completed by either April or August 2000, could be going on while both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 races are conducted next year and in 2000. The next two Comfort Classic at the Brickyard SENIOR PGA TOUR golf tournaments also could be played while workmen complete the new track and buildings. The Speedway is busy with other functions such as testing and social events that occur throughout the year.

The F1 course will utilize about one mile of the existing 2.5-mile oval. The first turn is right-handed, just before the exit of the oval's Turn 4. Eight more right-handed and four left-handed turns follow before the cars return to the oval. There will be temporary and permanent impact walls paralleling the road course portion of the circuit.

The back straightaway stretching down Hulman Boulevard will be 1,500 feet. This thoroughfare currently is the main north-south road for automobile and pedestrian traffic in the middle of the infield. The infield portion of the course will be permanent.

Forbes is not certain yet whether the start-finish line will remain the famed "Yard of Bricks," located at the center of the main straightaway.

"I think it may be the same," he said. "That will be decided by (Speedway officials) and Formula One."

Forbes calculated through computer imaging that an F1 car can circle the circuit in 73 seconds, a speed average of 127 mph. Billy Boat completed the quickest qualifying lap for the 1998 Indianapolis 500 on the oval last May in 40.076 seconds at 224.573 mph, a record for Pep Boys Indy Racing League cars.

F1 cars are expected to reach 195 mph at the Yard of Bricks and a top speed of 200 mph just before entrance to their Turn 1. The drivers will have to gear down to 55 mph at Turn 9, a right-hand turn just south of the golf course and will re-enter the oval over Tunnel 3, located at the entrance of Turn 2, at 100 mph and begin accelerating.

Forbes estimated that road course construction should be completed to the point that F1 cars can test within a year.

Construction of the F1 garages will not affect the three rows of garages in historic Gasoline Alley used by Pep Boys Indy Racing League and NASCAR cars.

The F1 garages, actually referred to as "pits" by the teams, are active during the race and cars will drive out of them directly onto the existing pit lane. Forbes said F1 teams refer to the refueling and tire changing slots directly in front of the garages as the "working area."

The garages and suites located above them will each be 14 feet in height, for a total building height of 28 feet.

The Tower Terrace stands, soon to be removed, seat 11,548 spectators. T here will be 3,500 new seats constructed in front of the new media center and temporary seating for another 5,000 in front of the garages during the 500 and 400 will bring the seating almost back to its original capacity.

"Everyone who has a ticket will be in the exact same location," Forbes said.

The U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis will have temporary seating on the backside of the course, as well. This will have a minor impact on infield parking, Forbes said. Most of the reduction in parking will be on the inside of the oval's Turns 2 and 4.

Forbes expects the work force to peak at 200. The project will be managed internally, but Bovis Construction Company (one of the world's largest construction firms) has been retained to provide a five-person consulting staff to help oversee the operation.

"All work will be done by local contractors," Forbes said.

The addition of the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis and construction of a road course is the latest major upgrading of the Speedway since Tony George, grandson of longtime owner Tony Hulman, assumed the presidency of the company on Jan. 8, 1990. George previously added the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race and an International Race of Champions event, which have both been remarkably successful. He also founded the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, which starts its fourth season January 23-25 with the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, and features the cars and competitors of the Indianapolis 500.

George also has continued his grandfather's policy of constantly modernizing the facilities. The track has been repaved, warm-up lanes added, seats replaced, handicapped facilities put in place, and a state-of-the-art control tower placed under construction. He also contracted noted golf course architect Pete Dye to redesign the old Speedway Golf Course into a championship-caliber layout now known as Brickyard Crossing Golf Course. The course redesign was completed in 1993, and the Comfort Classic at the Brickyard SENIOR PGA TOUR event is a favorite among the players.

The Speedway came to life 90 years ago, and George, yet to reach his 40th birthday, is adding new life and another chapter to the history of the world's most famous racecourse for the 21st century.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Billy Boat , Tony George