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GP Week : Issue 31
Man with vision: Hermann Tilke, below, is responsible for many of the current F1 tracks, and a few future tracks, such as one in Kazkhstan, right. and, like them or loathe them, are here to stay. His is a name that divides paddock opinion. Some like the fact that Formula 1 has a grand architect: a man to oversee the design of the canvas upon which the painting of the sport’s grandeur is played out. To others, he bastardises once great tracks, and creates new circuits devoid of interest, passion or flow. Well … you can’t please everyone. The thing is, he’s as big a fan of the sport as those who are all too keen to pull him down. A good man, an intelligent man, and a highly amusing man, Hermann Tilke, and the job he does in the sport, are as undiscovered and misrepresented as each other. So how did Hermann Tilke become one of the most influential people in Formula 1? The German himself was a keen H amateur touring car driver in the 1980s, 26 ERMANN Tilke’s name is synonymous with the modern face of Formula 1. His circuits have come to define the sport regularly competing at his local track, the Nurburgring Nordschlieffe. His full-time job, however, was in engineering, and having established Tilke Engineering GmbH in 1984, an architectural and civil engineering enterprise, his break into motorsport design came about completely by chance. “I founded my own company and as a racing driver for my hobby I wanted to do something and design something on a circuit,”he reflects “It started with something very small at the Nurburgring and it developed from there. “My first circuit job was when the service roads inside the Nurburgring needed to be repaired. So we did some supervision of this job for 200 German Marks,”he pauses and laughs raucously. “And from that it developed. I came in slowly on the design work at the Nurburgring, and from there it starts to go to other circuits because after I did this at the Nurburgring for some years people said, ‘Oh, he’s an expert.’ Then I was also involved in small changes at existing circuits. But the first complete Formula 1 circuit I worked on was the A1 Ring in Austria.” The first, then, but by no means the last. On the current F1 calendar, Hermann Tilke has overseen the design and entire build of five circuits, most recently the Circuito Urbano Valenciana. In total, Tilke has worked on 10 tracks featured on the 2008 F1 calendar. But he’s not done yet. “At the moment we are working on 12 new circuits, but not only for Formula 1. We are also working on a lot of international circuits.” Among those tracks are new circuits in South Korea and Russia ahead of their potential Grands Prix, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, and a stunning new venue in Spain, La Ciudad del Motor de Aragón which will be an F1 test track and MotoGP race track.