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GP Week : Issue 106
What does it take to build a race track? To find exactly what it takes to establish a new race that’s in for the long–term, Dimitris Papadopoulos spoke with Apex Circuit Design and Managing Director, Clive Bowen. Bulldozers are not the start. By that stage, a mountain of work has already been accomplished ... I n the last few months there’s been a lot of talk about new countries and new opportunities – about new race tracks lining up to take their place on the grand prix calendar. Some – like Austin, Texas – are serious; others – like Bulgaria – have been hoaxes. This year, despite controversy, we have welcomed Korea; in 2011, India expands the F1 footprint. Then will come a street circuit in Sochi, Russia, and possibly Rome. Whichever way you cut it, the tasks that lie ahead are enormous, for the key point is not only to build a race track but also to make it sustainable. The initial questions are searching: For what will the circuit be used; Who wants to build it – investor and/or the government? Where do they want to build it? And who provides the money? The location is critical. The area is scanned before the on-site inspection fires up, and both satellite images and CAD drawings are quickly produced. It’s not only about building the motorsport facility itself but also its commercial viability. Let’s take Istanbul Park as an example. In 2005 it was lauded by the motor sports world as a state-of-the-art racing facility; yet, only a couple of years later, it is shrouded in ‘financial problems’. The number of spectators on race day at Istanbul this year was less than 40,000: something, obviously, is not going in the right direction. It’s not only Istanbul Park. Other circuits are in trouble – mainly because the big picture was not taken into account during the initial ‘F1 euphoria’ stage of the circuit’s inception. The bigger picture suggests that there must be ‘support’ facilities around a track to make it accessible all year long. Is there a train station nearby? Does it have fast access via high-speed roads that are 36