Tag Archives: Formula 1

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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Circuit of the Americas: Racing for 2012

 

The run up to tomorrow’s deadline for an agreement between Formula 1 and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) has been full of twists and turns, and American F1 fans have been waiting by the finish line this week for news that the 2012 race in Austin will go ahead as announced. The American Statesman has been keeping a close eye on events last month surrounding the story in Austin, and for many it’s time for a recap.

A win tomorrow for COTA means a win for Austin and American fans with a race in November 2012, but it wasn’t long after construction was interrupted earlier this year that observers noted it was going to be it’s own race to complete. The project was underfunded and delayed, and with a complete stoppage of work at the site due to a reshuffle at the top, all eyes are now waiting and watching for COTA to take the last corner on the last lap and finish what they’ve set out to do.

Americans love an underdog, and since the announcement of the Grand Prix of America, a new F1 race in New Jersey overlooking the Manhattan skyline in June of 2013, it’s been positioned to steal COTA’s thunder as the first F1 race in the US in more than half a decade if COTA is dropped from the calendar next year. FOM’s rightsholder, Bernie Ecclestone, has been a lightning rod for much of the ire around the Austin race delays, and the announcement tomorrow is expected to either put COTA ahead of their well-financed contenders from New Jersey, or make them the second Formula 1 race in the US in over half a decade.

A second place finish to the New Jersey race won’t take COTA out of the running for 2013, and regardless of outcome tomorrow it’s critical for everyone involved with this project, and especially the fans, to address the expectations set for F1’s return to Austin and match the passion and enthusiasm American fans have for the sport here.

The picture is much bigger than a one-off event or launch, and is about the ten year plan to create a new American home for F1 – one that is going to be supported by hundreds of millions and hopefully billions of reasons fans and business bring with them to ensure its longevity in Austin.

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America and Porsche in F1

Dan Gurney drives his Porsche 804 to take the win at Rouen, 1962

Dan Gurney in the Porsche 804's only Formula 1 win at Rouen

The Cahier Archive

 

 

News that Porsche and Audi are considering their futures in Formula 1 with the upcoming discussions on engine regulations in 2013 is good news for the sport’s success in America.  Porsche’s chairman, Matthias Mueller, has been quoted recently at the Paris Auto Show saying that “we have to discuss whether it makes better sense for one of the [two] brands to go into LMP1, and the other brand into Formula 1. So we will have a round-table to discuss the pros and cons.”

America and the upcoming Formula 1 race in Austin would certainly be a factor in Porsche’s decision, as Porsche’s 2nd largest core market is the Americas with 31% of all Porsche sales taking place here last year.  29% of sales last year were in North America alone.

Currently, Porsche is part of the F1 circus across the world with the Mobil 1 Supercup series – a support series to Grand Prix races since 1993.   2010 will see 10 Supercup support races across the world, with drivers competing on the same tracks Formula 1 fans enjoy on Sundays.  The GT3 Cup cars running at each of these races features customers behind the wheel – something which ties to the very ethos of the company.

Porsche as a brand has always maintained that their presence in world class competitive racing contributes directly to what you buy at the dealership.  Porsche prides itself on their ability to provide a part number for anything you may need for the street – or the track.  From weekend racers to GT3 Cup cars – they’ve got a dealer part number you can give at their parts desk.  The idea here is clear – what’s relevant on the track is relevant on the street.

Lately, Porsche’s profile at LeMans has been taking a back seat to Audi’s dominance in the LMP1 class, so a continuation of Audi’s momentum at La Sarthe would seem to lead Porsche in the direction of F1.  But is F1 a fit for the brand?  Recent engine regulation discussions with the FOTA Technical Working Group have been open to all manufacturers, and Porsche’s presence there with talk of a 1.6 liter turbo on the grid in 2013 could mesh well with the company’s future plans for the development of their upcoming product lines.

F1 has been said to be a space race and is usually a marquee event in each country it visits.  At different times, some manufacturers have leveraged F1’s global reach and exclusivity to create a ‘halo effect’ around their brand, while at different times other brands have justified their participation through tangible results and innovation in a series which creates relevant road car development.

Balancing the value and availability of each to Porsche are some of the many elements to consider when getting things just right if they enter F1.  If the tide’s right, and a new American audience is in place with a home GP, Porsche could find the better value getting back into the sport.  They certainly have a lot of rich racing history in America, and F1 could just be a platform of choice for the brand.

‘Porsche’s shock F1 return plans’  – Autocar

Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup

Porsche Cars NA

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Filed under American F1 circuits, American F1 drivers, brand strategy in F1, F1 and branding, F1 and business, F1 and technology, F1 in America, Uncategorized, United States Grand Prix in Austin