Category Archives: GP of America

A Visit to the Port Imperial Grand Prix Circuit Part 1: Start/Finish

This is the first article in a series on a visit to the Port Imperial Circuit from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, you can follow ‘F1 in America’ on twitter and Facebook for regular updates on this story and more photographs.

With just over a year to go until the flag drops on Formula 1’s newest race in Weehawken (aka West New York), it was time to visit this massive project and learn what America’s newest F1 venue will have in store for fans and the region next Summer.

The Chrysler Building on a beautiful Spring day en route to the 39th Street/Midtown ferry terminal

A perfect Friday in May provided the backdrop as I left from Grand Central Station and found a seat on an 8:45am bus ($2.25) down 42nd street, making my way across town towards the westside.  As the bus crossed 10th Avenue and approached the water, the view across the Hudson became clearer between the tall buildings with green trees across the river visible over an area just South of the circuit.

Manhattan Midtown/West 39th Street ferry terminal

The 39th Street/Midtown ferry terminal was a short walk from the M42/M50 stop, just three blocks away.  There is also a special ferry bus (pictured above) which also stops along a circular route at regular bus stops and this pulls right up to the terminal.  This terminal services seven different routes, and weekday mornings runs every 10 minutes to Port Imperial ($9).  While the terminal was nowhere close to rush hour crowds, I envisioned how some of the 85,000+ spectators might make their way here en route to the track.  Soon after boarding I struck up a a conversation the ship’s captain, a very friendly guy who thought that if all six ferrys were operating in unison to the circuit, they should be able to handle the volume of race fans at a decent rate.

Pulling up to the Port Imperial terminal. Start/finish straight and pitlane building are located immediately behind the terminal

It’s a scenic trip across the Hudson, less than 10 minutes long, and the Port Imperial building that greets you is a modern structure of glass and metal.  The pitlane building isn’t too far behind it, and the width of concrete structure for it is visible on either side.  There are over a dozen team bays facing the water across from the terminal exit, and the start finish straight/pit lane is located in between.

Before taking a drive around the circuit, I had an appointment with a very gracious civil engineer from Tilke who took the time to discuss the project with plans he had brought with him.  It was my second meeting with a Tilke team member since my visit to Austin last year, and it was a pleasure again asking questions and understanding the project and effort the team’s been making to build a race circuit.

As I asked about all kinds of work going on at the track, I kept reminding myself that The Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial was announced only last Fall, so I was impressed to see the pit structure buzzing with activity across from our meeting in the terminal.  There aren’t too many more visible signs right now of physical progress on the track, but the scale of the planning involved was made clear by my friend at Tilke.  Working on a huge project such as this with local authorities, utilities and community members impacted directly by street closures and equipment on site is a critical part of the process, and I explained my experiences in San Jose with the 2005 – 2007 Champ Car series races there had given me an appreciation for constructing a street circuit race.

After a long chat I thanked him again, and took a look outside at the start finish straight sandwiched between ferry building and pitlane:

Port Imperial start/finish straight along the waterfront

This photo shows the current layout of the street and landscaping with sidewalk, and it’s understood that much of this will be moved to make way for the grand prix circuit’s path and pitlane, including track wall structures.  One way this race is going to be impacting the community will be by changing public spaces such as these, so it is helpful to see how street circuit pitlanes have been designed in the past and what they look like when not in use.

The Valencia street circuit pitlane with landscaping, bicycle and pedestrian area when not in use, garages are to the right

This area of the Valencia circuit has been converted for public use with bicycle lanes and pedestrian traffic on the pit lane and boxes, with mobile landscaping and benches along the way to create space for public use when the track is not in service.  Part of the challenge creating a street circuit on public roads involves providing for the use of the space for when the site is not active as a racing venue, something that can be a key factor in the race’s long term success.

Driver's left view from the main straight before turn 1

Driving down the main straight and looking driver’s left, the amazing skyline of Manhattan is a beautiful backdrop for this circuit – and one of the main selling points for this location.  Turn 1 begins a series of left-right-left turns lined with grandstands before running up JFK drive.

My next post will cover the drive up the hill, and challenges Tilke’s engineers face with creating a usable public road surface and Formula 1 race track.  (Part 2 here) To get more familiar with the circuit, here’s a copy of the complete layout (.pdf) that you can also download:


Port Imperial F1 Street Circuit Master

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Filed under American F1 circuits, American F1 Events, Formula 1 New Jersey, GP of America, Uncategorized

A Supercar Rental for an F1 Grand Prix Weekend

When the Grand Prix rolls through Circuit of The Americas there won’t be a bigger stage in a bigger state for well-heeled Formula 1 fans around the world to make their entrance – Texas style.

For the lucky few, a Grand Prix weekend will include all the trimmings and that means everything from the best seats at the race to the best seats to the race, and for this demand, there’s one rental brand Americans are familiar with that’s meeting it … abroad, anyway.

Hertz UK has announced they’ve added the latest Formula 1 inspired car from McLaren Automotive to their lineup at selected locations in the Commonwealth:  The MP4-12C.

 

Now available to rent from Hertz (UK)

 

Michel Taride, President, Hertz International and Executive Vice-President, Hertz Corporation, said:

“Hertz aspires to offer truly innovative rental experiences to our customers, and the spell-binding McLaren MP4-12C provides an opportunity of a lifetime to experience Formula 1 race-bred technologies on the road.”

Yes, that yellow (ahem, Gold) license plate looks familiar, and in more than one way the numbers are impressive: 0-62 in 3.3 seconds will run you rates starting at £1134.30 (~$1800) for a single day mid-week and range to £906.30 (~$1400) per day for rentals lasting over 28 days.

Stateside, the MP4-12C starts at around $229,000 and the first customer cars were shipped to dealers earlier this year.  America is an important market for McLaren, and their celebrated return to full production road cars brings a brand known for exclusivity and performance to a much wider audience than it’s legendary predecessor, the F1.

It’s not impossible to imagine a supercar like the MP4-12C available from Hertz especially around an F1 based marketing drive, but typically the American supercar rental market is addressed by smaller niche operations and clubs catering to customers and members through automotive timeshares and exclusive pricing.  In this case, Hertz UK has partnered with Premiere Velocity, a smaller luxury car rental firm based in London.

Could such a car be offered in Austin from Hertz, Avis or, Dollar Rental?  It will be interesting to see if there’s an effort to meet the opportunity.  Imagine a Bentley airport shuttle to whisk you from your airline (or airplane)  to your supercar rental – it sure sounds like a nice way to transport your luggage.

 

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Filed under American F1 Events, brand strategy in F1, Circuit of the Americas, F1 and business, Formula 1 New Jersey, GP of America, Uncategorized, United States Grand Prix in Austin

‘GP of America’ to New Jersey in 2013 with a 10 year deal

A new Formula 1 circuit was announced today by state and local officials in a 10 year deal to feature a ‘Monaco like street circuit’ around the Port Imperial area of Weehawken, New Jersey.

 

150 feet of elevation change, 3.2 miles

 

Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial: Master Layout 1:2500


 
The race has been announced for June 2013, with a date most likely within a week of the Canadian Grand Prix, and one with a view like no other race: Manhattan’s skyline.

Billed as a ‘truly green race’, organizers have planned for public transport to be utilized extensively around the circuit, which will accommodate 100,000 spectators around the 3.2 mile clockwise track.  The project is being put together with private funds and economic impact in the area is expected at a rate of about $100M per year, with both West New York and New Jersey officials taking part in today’s announcement.

While excitement has been running high around the new circuit in Austin, (which I visited last month), several of the key players around the new project in New Jersey were pleased with how things are taking shape there, and NASCAR promoter Humpy Wheeler took to the stage to lend his blessing to the project, calling it ‘. . . the best thought out project I have even seen since I’ve been involved in the racing business’.

Formula 1 United States™  Chairman Tavo Hellmund also lent his support to the project in this release today:

“I want to extend my congratulations to Leo and his team, as I know how much work they have put into making this happen. When I walked the site a few years ago, the site’s potential was obvious.  I am excited for the East Coast and feel Tuesday’s announcement is yet another acknowledgement of the viability, fan interest, economic benefits and prestige an F1 Grand Prix event brings to a region.

New Jersey and Texas, nearly 2,000 miles apart, offer unique and very different fan experiences destined to not only raise the visibility of the sport in this country, but also increase the global attraction and US support of these world-class events.

These two regions are going to be terrific backdrops for the world’s most advanced form of racing.”

10/26 update:  The above master layout for the circuit surface online this morning and shows several interesting details about the new circuit, including pit, track and facilities layout around the circuit.  It’s not known at this time if this is a finalized plan, however, the drawing notes show the seating capacity at 125,000 and not 100,000 as was mentioned at yesterday’s conference with 6,000 hillside seats and 119,000 seaside seats.

Share your thoughts on a second Formula 1 race coming to the US, and where else you’d like to see F1 race

 

 

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Filed under American F1 circuits, American F1 Events, American F1 Fans, F1 and business, F1 in America, Formula 1 New Jersey, GP of America, NASCAR, United States Grand Prix