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Everytime you see the Powerball numbers attain eight- or nine-figure sums, as a motorsport fanatic, it’s exhausting to not drift off on a flight of fantasy about learn how to spend the winnings. For many people, constructing a racing crew from scratch or investing in an current crew can be a dream. Simply suppose what this proprietor or that proprietor may do if she or he didn’t need to take pay drivers. Or how about investing in a choose few drivers in whom you actually imagine?
For a few of us, all that human interplay can be an excessive amount of. As a substitute, we’d begin gathering classic race and rally automobiles – that Holman-Moody Ford Torino Talladega we’ve at all times drooled over, or a Penske PC20, BMW CSL, Ferrari F187, Lancia Stratos, Lancia Delta Integrale, Lotus 72, Reynard 95i, and so forth.…
Most formidable of all, nevertheless, can be to construct a race observe, and switch it right into a enterprise that may in the future provide you with a return on funding, however in its early levels is only a labor of affection. And that’s what Rusty Bittle – a developer and entrepreneur reasonably than a fortunate lottery winner – is creating in Cumberland County, Tennessee.
Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub will function a three.5-mile Circuit Membership observe, a 2.67-mile Grand Prix observe and a mixed configuration ‘endurance’ observe that’s practically six miles lengthy. The layouts have been designed by Tilke GmbH and are FIA Grade 2, which permits something besides Formulation 1 to race there, and they’re blessed with loads of elevation adjustments.
Tim Chandler, VP of promoting at Flatrock explains: “Twenty-something years in the past when Rusty actually began desirous about constructing a course, he was particularly constructing a small kart course, as a result of he was in kart racing. However from there his imaginative and prescient grew.
“Three years in the past, the venue was going to be in Oakridge, Tennessee, and he was a a lot bigger racetrack, nevertheless it wasn’t figuring out and there have been issues with authorities, and it was going to price hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands extra, and there weren’t even ensures he would get approval.
“So Rusty began on the lookout for different areas. And about 40 miles outdoors Knoxville, on the I-40 between Knoxville and Nashville, he discovered an incredible piece of property that was to be an industrial park. It was going to be the house of the VW plant in Tennessee [which instead was built 75 miles southwest in Chattanooga].
“This piece of land is about in 773 acres nestled within the Tennessee Hills, on a plateau, however lower than a mile from the Interstate. It’s a ravishing property that simply cradles the design of the observe. We went to Tilke with this land and stated, ‘Design us the perfect course for the motorsports fanatic’. It was a clean slate on rolling Tennessee Hills with mountain views, preserving the contours of the land and using them to create a pure amphitheater.”
Jason Guzman, observe director at Flatrock says: “The Motorclub itself is a part of section 1 together with the kart observe. Asphalt can be laid within the subsequent two months for the Motorclub – a three.5-mile observe for our members – and on the similar time the kart observe which is CIK-approved. We’re hoping to have the ability to enable automobiles and karts on the observe by late spring or early summertime.”
Developing the Motorclub and its services is a $180m venture, and can finally embody a luxurious resort, an amphitheater sufficiently big to stage concert events, a brewery, a vineyard, a shopping mall and extra. It’s no shock that Flatrock already has a letter of intent from a premier racing sequence to stage an international-level occasion in 2024, which implies the ability goes to quickly speed up in prominence from its first occasion…
There’s appreciable elevation change at Flatrock, regardless of its title…
“Yeah, we’ll have some smaller trackday occasions on the Motorclub observe,” says Jeremy Hale, COO and CFO. “We have already got producers coming and speaking to us about renting out the three.5-mile circuit, however the primary occasions on the Grand Prix observe can be in 2024.”
Already, the Flatrock crew has had conversations with SRO relating to the GT World Problem, after which the hope is to debate with IMSA and IndyCar the potential for bringing their races to the venue.
“As soon as they see our observe and see the potential of what we’ve to offer, these different sanctioning our bodies will come,” says Guzman in a assured method. Provides Chandler: “What we wish to be is a vacation spot for the motorsports fanatic, and never simply the driving force. We wish to construct an entity that additionally caters to the total household expertise, so while you come to Flatrock, you possibly can embrace the total services – the eating places onsite, the Membership, the swimming pool and spa, and all of the facilities for the total leisure side. So there’s different issues to do on the property. There’ll be tenting services accessible onsite, strolling trails, golf-cart trails, concert events, and so forth.
“We actually need it to be a spot the place households and pals can collect collectively and luxuriate in the entire life-style that surrounds motorsports.”
Provides Hale, “We’ll be capable of host weddings, and in addition company retreats, so if an organization desires so as to add observe experiences, we are able to make it a memorable occasion at Flatrock, versus sitting in a stuffy convention room some other place.”
It sounds idyllic, and fortunately, Bittle’s imaginative and prescient hasn’t discovered itself enmeshed in miles and miles of purple tape. Fairly the alternative, in actual fact.
“We’ve been working with the general public and having conferences with them since final yr,” says Hale, “and we’ve been embraced by not solely the locals but additionally the federal government entities who’re supportive of the venture. They know what sort of financial influence this might have, what sort of job creation this might have, and they also’ve been very supportive of the venture.
“As you possibly can think about, there’s additionally quite a lot of curiosity from completely different trade companions who wish to become involved, from new know-how corporations, autonomous automobile testing, EVs, and so forth.”
It won’t have escaped the discover of IndyCar followers that Flatrock Motorsports Park is simply two hours east of Nashville, the place the profitable Music Metropolis Grand Prix has now been held twice. To the target fan who loves the state and loves the game, this could be seen as a possibility for U.S. open-wheel racing’s premier sequence to have a Tennessee double-header sooner or later sooner or later, with joint promotion of occasions held on back-to-back weekends.
However one additionally recollects that when venues don’t work collectively, circuit proximity may be perceived as a foul factor. That’s why Sonoma Raceway and Laguna Seca by no means appeared on the identical IndyCar schedule, and why Eddie Gossage, former president of Texas Motor Speedway, used to react as if sprayed by a skunk in case you dared to ask him about IndyCar’s all-too-brief affair with Circuit of The Americas. And people two venues had been 3hr30min aside.
Hale doesn’t understand a possible drawback.
“I feel the truth that Nashville is a road circuit is cool,” says Hale. “It’s a terrific occasion, and a few of our companions are concerned in that occasion as effectively. It’s a terrific metropolis, very vibrant, and a terrific location for a race.
“However to have a Flatrock close by, the place you possibly can come and run a highway circuit with the views we’ve, can be a really completely different expertise and one that might be complementary to – not competing towards – the occasion in Nashville. We haven’t had these conversations particularly, however we do know their management and there can be discussions ongoing.”
Given NASCAR’s current realization that highway programs produce a number of the most entertaining races on its huge schedule, it doesn’t take a lot creativeness to image a Tennessee double-header for inventory automobiles. One can dream of the Cup sequence racing Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night, then heading 150 miles west to Flatrock for a really completely different problem on the weekend…
It’s straightforward to get forward of oneself, or underestimate the schedule juggling that should go on between sanctioning our bodies and their TV companions. Nevertheless it’s straightforward, too, to get enthusiastic a few new highway course venue equivalent to Flatrock Motorsports Park. It’s going to absolutely earn its bread and butter from internet hosting OEMs for testing, filming and observe days for workers and fans, and also needs to develop into a well-liked gathering spot for traditional automobile golf equipment, and race organizations equivalent to SCCA and NASA.
However attracting high-profile highway racing sequence equivalent to IndyCar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is greater than only a pipe dream. Heck, IndyCar is holding Spring Coaching on the Thermal Membership in Palm Springs, California, subsequent yr, whereas IMSA has by no means been afraid to suppose outdoors the field since Jim France turned chairman in 2014.
So even in case you really feel only a twinge of jealousy that Rusty Bittle is a type of motorsports fans who can flip a really formidable dream into actuality, we should all salute him for pursuing that dream for, we hope, the advantage of all.
Flatrock Motorsports Park