Indy racing has a rich history currently preserved at the Indianapolis 500 Museum. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 by Carl Fisher. In the same year, the two-and-a-half-mile oval of Indianapolis Motor Speedway was paved with 3.2 million bricks in just 63 days. Carl Fisher and the governor of Indiana put the gold brick on the start-finish line. In 1961, Tony Hallman and Ray Haroon, the first Indy racing winner, also put one on, which is still there today in the museum.
In 2011, another was laid in in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. It’s now referred to as the Yard of Bricks and has earned two main traditions where winners kiss the bricks, and the other is through a metal casting foundry, putting a bronze brick on the racetrack for those drivers who won the Indianapolis four times, as first done by AJ Foyt. More visionary work has since been added to Carl Fisher’s dream, some are listed here to help you get started.
The first step is to survey two or three locations within a city where track designers, along with engineers, can establish potential race locations, taking measurements and looking at who will be impacted if a race occurs in those locations. Once the best options are found, high-level designs are put together and submitted to the city for approval. That includes any civil work that may need to be done to make it possible. Things like road improvements, resurfacing, any movement of street furniture, and so on.
It takes around two years for the initial feasibility study for a track to become part of the racing calendar. A lot of work, collaboration, and relationship-building must be done to get a racing location across the line.
Only after deciding where the race will be held does the race track’s design start. The meticulous design captures many intricate elements, offering a captivating portrayal beyond the mere track. The design combines intricate elements seamlessly integrated with the beautiful landscape and streetscape for an electrifying racing spectacle. Other than the difference between the temporary and the traditional permanent circuits used across most motorsport, a lot needs to be thought about. The track layout is critical for efficiency in an Indy racing event. The design is rich in detail: it includes all the track’s measurements, pit lanes, corners, and lengths of the straights. It’s tight, but the organizing team is always up to the task.
Popup or temporal circuits will need to be designed and made to fit around already existing locations and still meet the needs of the Indy racing championships and F.I.A. requirements. One of those requirements is an optimal race track width of around 12 meters, but in certain locations, because of being restricted by the environment, it can be less.
You can’t move the buildings, but you’ll need to work on the area’s topography, like places with dump disposal, where you may need services from an excavation company to remove the debris and create a proper race surface. Creativity is needed to reverse engineer a race track into an existing location and work closely with the F.I.A. to guarantee that the tracks meet the spectator’s, cars and drivers’ safety needs. Nothing is left to chance or probability. Sometimes, though, even changing established formats in motorsport is necessitated by the complexities of a city, but even then, these guarantees must be established.
Once they complete the design, the team ensures that the track feasibility study’s findings align with their work, confirming that all in the report is compacted within the identified circuit areas. Their work is to ensure that everything fits within the identified area. This includes things like the pit lane, garages, hospitality buildings, site infrastructure, and more. After conducting thorough testing, the sports team evaluates the models and assesses their compatibility with the racing cars. If they are content with the circuit’s suitability and impact on the vehicles, they prepare a comprehensive report called the homologation dossier, which is then submitted to the F.I.A. This document is an official instrument to validate the circuit’s compliance with the required standards.
The homologation process considers the number of turns, corner types, safety fences, and run-off areas alongside speed simulation and acceleration and braking parameters. Potential issues are then reported to the design department to reconfigure or make necessary tweaks to the track design until a final design is signed off and ready to be added to the calendar. F.I.A. homologation can last between one and three years, meaning once the design is approved, that circuit configuration can be used repeatedly as an F.I.A. homologated track.
The onsite work should commence before the Indy racing event. The work that goes on here is the side of motorsport that can often be taken for granted by those who get on the trucks when it’s all over and don’t think about it. The task force involved and the detailed process herein should give anyone a fresh sense of appreciation. The work entails bringing together a workforce, often up to 800 people, who start building the track infrastructure in an area about a mile wide.
Along with trucks, forklifts, and trucks delivering race cars, means of delivering teams and people into the pit lanes must be created, including footbridges and pedestrian bridges for access. This all happens while traffic and bustling city life continue around them. The building program rolls out, installations and fixtures are implemented, the concrete blocks are loaded and laid in, the surfaces are evened out, and every design detail is implemented to the letter. The process of putting the pop-up circuit on the ground often takes around two weeks before the race weekend and then another one to two weeks to remove it. Quite a lot of planning is involved.
The process starts with securing the venue, setting up offices, and contracting electrical services to provide power by pulling it from the grid or installing temporary power infrastructure. Crane companies‘ services are required to handle the large concrete bricks, with each block being four meters long and one ton per linear meter for a two-and-a-half kilometer race track, resulting in about 1500 concrete blocks in total. The installation of those blocks has to be scheduled to suit the local environment without shutting down roads or interfering with residents’ movements.
Various hospitalities, garage tents, race control, medical centers, and other facilities have to be installed and created to make the sporting environment work, fit for purpose, user-friendly, and ensure everyone’s safety.
Take a moment and picture the overwhelming excitement that must fill the site build team, the track design team, and everyone involved in bringing the track circuit to life as they witness the first cars roaring along the track. What a pay-off after such an intense undertaking, to see everything culminate into an unmatched experience that’s likely to be etched in the minds of thousands of people for many days thereafter. It’s an unmatched moment that makes everything that went into the project worthwhile and justified.
Putting up a pop-up circuit may require that the race track run through some hall or indoor facility. Some indoor floors are pre-tension concrete slabs, which you can’t just contract demolition companies to dig up. However, the polished surface means that cars will slide all over it, especially if wet. A creative solution for this challenge is to blast about 2.5 millimeters off the floor’s surface selectively, then utilize asphalt sealcoating services and bind the concrete using asphalt pavers. Afterward, emery can be broadcast over it to provide a sink-in effect, and finally, a polymer coating can be applied to offer slip resistance and the required friction surface for Indy racing under F.I.A. regulations.
The life of a race track is dynamic, a true living organic process. Feedback, information, and lessons learned after a weekend of Indy racing may necessitate certain changes. After the race, an inventory is taken of any issues that arise or aspects that didn’t work, whether from a sporting or events perspective. These issues are addressed, and another homologation is conducted for the next season’s race.
Teams are established in each city to stay updated on each specific circuit, provide feedback, and take necessary actions to implement changes. Even a homologated circuit can undergo modifications between seasons. Turns may be added or removed, straights can be lengthened or shortened, and speed can be adjusted in different track areas to enhance safety and overtaking opportunities. The design and overlay team also looks ahead to future seasons, constantly adjusting to account for changes in the next generation of cars, including their speed, weight, and energy capacity. It’s an ongoing process to future-proof a race track.
Like in all championship areas, sustainability is a key consideration in track design. The aim should be that even after Indy Racing has passed, the local community will continue to benefit from the lasting effects of the work put into organizing the Indy Racing event. Experiencing improved conditions in their city or area. Human sustainability is every bit critical as it enhances social equity. Utilizing a majority of local crew and suppliers for tasks such as cabling, gutter installations, track painting, and turf installation helps reduce the carbon footprint of the championship while supporting local businesses and the local economy.
Racing on temporary city-center circuits presents a unique set of challenges for the design and build teams and the race teams and drivers. From a sporting perspective, those who can easily adapt to new situations often emerge victorious. For example, fitting a pit lane in a city can be difficult since it generally needs to be about 200 meters long to accommodate 15-meter-wide garages for 12 teams. However, in some cities, pit lanes have been designed with dual lanes opposite each other to use the available space best.
Sometimes, safety fences and concrete blocks must be installed while traffic flows without shutting down the roads. This is critical to avoid disrupting city life. The goal is to set up the city for the event without unduly disrupting people’s lives. The blocks and fences have been developed to work well with the tracks, evolving to offer versatility. Builders can leave gaps and remove individual blocks without disrupting the entire layout, allowing certain streets to remain open and blocks to be easily reinserted when needed. Think of it like a complex version of a building with Lego bricks but with a level of seamlessness. So, even though constructing a race car track for Indy racing may seem daunting, the challenges often make the experience even more exciting.
Constructing a race track for Indy Racing is nothing short of an engineering marvel. It’s a race against time that features urban landscapes and high-speed cars. It combines painstaking planning and creative track designers who miraculously achieve the impossible without unduly interrupting the usual urban traffic. But behind the ingenuity of this engineering feat is a group of people that includes architects, local authorities, race organizers, designers, construction crews, and, of course, the racing teams. The tracks are designed to challenge even the most daring drivers, who instantly transform it into a playground of adrenalin and speed, bringing the city to its feet as spectators marvel at the machines and their dizzying speeds. It’s an immersive, captivating experience that’s simply unbeatable.
One might wonder why there is so much effort, spanning months or even years, put into creating a race car track for Indy racing in a city location instead of simply utilizing permanent circuits. Well, one reason is the iconic backdrop that allows fans watching the race on TV to identify the city where it’s taking place easily. Additionally, these races promote messages of clean air and electric vehicles (EVs) in urban environments. By bringing motorsport closer to people who might not otherwise travel to a grand prix circuit outside of town, these races help individuals connect with the future and understand its essence.