Turkish Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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As one of the newest additions to the Formula One World Championships, the Turkish Grand Prix made its championship debut on 21 August 2005. The event is held at Istanbul Park Circuit – a newly constructed track which was designed by Hermann Tilke. Tilke is a famous German civil engineer and the Istanbul Park Circuit was not his first racetrack project. The circuit is generally considered to be very challenging, as it makes use of the natural contours of the land as well as copies some of the most difficult aspects of other international tracks. It is also one of only three circuits which are raced in an anti-clockwise direction. The other two are the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy and the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Brazil.

The Istanbul Park Circuit track is 5.34 kilometres (3.32 miles) in length. It is lapped 57 times which adds up to a total race length of 309.72 kilometres (192.45 miles). Although the track has a number of interesting twists and turns, turn 8 is generally considered to be the best and most challenging corner on the track. The turn is basically a combination of four corners which are joined together to form an intense turn with a 5G load capacity that lasts for four seconds. As if the turn itself wasn’t challenging enough, many drivers attempt to take it too fast and this usually results in them spinning off the track. Such was the case in the 2005 Turkish Grand Prix when Juan Pablo Montoya lost his leading advantage by taking turn 8 too fast in an attempt to lap Tiago Monteiro just two laps before the finish. His car spun out of control, tangled with his opponent and both were overtaken by Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Although he has never won the Turkish Grand Prix, the fastest lap time of 1:28.005 was set by Michael Schumacher whilst driving for Ferrari. In 2005 the race was won by Kimi Raikkonen and in 2006 the trophy was taken by Felipe Massa. Unfortunately at the end of 2006 the winners trophy was presented in such a way that the political neutrality policy of the FIA was compromised. Fears that the Turkish Grand Prix might be scratched from the World Championships were put to rest when Turkey was fined $5 million for their inappropriate behaviour.

Felipe Massa went on to claim first place again at the 2007 and 2008 Turkish Grand Prix events, with Jenson Button winning the 2009 event. Turkey is one of the host countries on the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship race calendar, with the action taking place on 28-30 May as the seventh event of the season.

Phoenix International Raceway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Built in 1964, the Phoenix International Raceway was originally designed to be one of the best American open wheel racing tracks available. The raceway was carved out of the Estrella Mountains giving the racetrack an incredibly picturesque backdrop. This meant that the new track, which is located at Avondale in Arizona, not only replaced the old one at the Arizona State Fairgrounds but quickly became a favorite amongst racing greats at the time. What’s more, the development of the track further spurred on the developing tourism industry, which meant that it contributed to the economy of the local community in quite a significant way. However, things only really started to take off at the track in 1988 when the Phoenix International Raceway was chosen to host some NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races. Suddenly racing legends could be found in every corner of the town and the whole of America discovered just what a great track the Phoenix International Raceway was.

The Phoenix International Raceway is one mile (1.6 km) in length and takes the form of a D-shaped tri-oval. It has a seating capacity of 76 800 and is currently owned by the International Speedway Corporation. Because the track was built right at the foot of a rocky mountain range, it had to be designed around its geographic location. Thus there is a curve in the middle of the backstretch which is situated between turns two and three. This curve is a rather unique feature and is commonly known as ‘the dogleg’. The ‘dogleg’ design allowed the designers to include an external road course and a drag strip into the overall design of the track. Turns 1 & 2 have an 11-degree bank while Turns 3 & 4 have a 9-degree bank. The front straight has a 3-degree bank while the back straight has a 9-degree bank.

Today things at the Phoenix International Raceway are somewhat different from what they originally were. The external road course gave way for an infield road circuit. The crossovers that were originally built to access this infield circuit were sealed off in 2005 after construction of a tunnel under turn four. The drag strip is also seldom used, but the raceway continues to be a popular venue for racing in general. Unfortunately, the raceway was unable to host the Indy Racing League in 2005 which brought to an end a long history of hosting this premier event. Still the raceway continues to enjoy its unmatched tradition of hosting 58 IndyCar events including the Fall NASCAR weekend, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks Series and Featherlite Southwest Series.

Albert Park

February 9, 2009 by  
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Situated in the City of Port Phillip in Victoria, Australia, Albert Park and Lake lie roughly 3 kilometres south of the Melbourne CBD. Set in 555 acres of stunning parkland, the Albert Park incorporates a number of sporting facilities, ovals, a golf course, a walking track and the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

Besides hosting a number of premier racing events, the park and Gunn Island provide a great habitat for a number of bird species, bats, possums, reptiles and amphibians. You’ll also find the Bob Jane Football stadium and the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre at Albert Park while the lake is used to host regular regattas.

Every year the Australian Grand Prix is held at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, a street-based circuit that snakes its way around the Albert Park Lake. It is this spectacular event for which the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is best known and the race usually takes place on the Labour Day weekend. Though the race takes place on a number of everyday sections of road, these sections were rebuilt prior to the inaugural race in 1996 so they are quite smooth when compared to other public road circuits. Add to this the picturesque setting of Albert Park, and the racetrack is an unbeatable location for Formula One racing. What’s more, the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit at Albert Park is one of the few places on the Formula 1 calendar which are situated near a body of water.

Drivers generally find that the track is fast and easy to drive and learn. However, it does not make overtaking easy and spectators generally have to have a grandstand seat in order to enjoy the race. As early as four weeks before the major event, the majority of the trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses and grandstands are put up in preparation. All of this is generally removed again in the two weeks following the event. Though a small number of people find the limited access to the various park facilities during this time to be an inconvenience, the majority of the public enjoy the race and venture out to see it each year.

Texas Motor Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Located in Fort Worth, Texas, the Texas Motor Speedway was built between 1995 and 1996. The original track featured a dual banking system with a 24-degree bank for stock cars and an 8-degree bank for open-wheel vehicles. The track is classified as a superspeedway as it is more than one mile in length and it is similar in layout to the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The track’s ‘Turn 4’ was reshaped in 1998 to make transitions from the turns to the straightway easier. Further renovations that same year eliminated the dual banking and resulted in the track currently in use today.

The Texas Motor Speedway measures 1.5 miles in length and features a quad-oval design. It has been banked 24 degrees in the turns to facilitate fast racing and the front straightway juts outwards a bit. It also has a seating capacity of more than 200,000 for NASCAR and IndyCar racing events. The track features tunnel bumps on Turns 2 and 4 which add to the its uniqueness. The track is currently owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. At one stage the Texas Motor Speedway was considered to be the ‘fastest non-restrictor plate track’ to appear on the NASCAR circuit. Qualifying speeds exceeded 192 mph and corner entry speeds were often clocked at over 200 mph. However, with the gradual wear of racing surfaces other tracks, such as Atlanta, proven to be faster. Currently the top qualifying record is held by Brian Vickers who posted a 196.235 mph speed in 2006.

The Texas Motor Speedway is home to two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races – making it a very popular racetrack with big attendance figures. The races which it hosts are the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 and the Dickes 500. It also hosts the O’Reilly 300 and the O’Reilly Challenge – both of which are Busch Series Races. The Bombardier Learjet 550 is the only Indy Racing League race that it hosts.

Bahrain International Circuit

February 9, 2009 by  
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Located in the Persian Gulf and linked to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway, the Kingdom of Bahrain plays host to one of the F1 Grand Prix events each year at the Bahrain International Circuit. Bahrain not only hosts the annual Formula One Grand Prix, but it also caters for drag racing and GP2 series races. In 2006, Bahrain was also able to host a V8 Supercar race, the Desert 400, and a 24 Hour Race. Much of the racing takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit – a brilliant circuit that is a source of national pride.

It was the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa who initiated the construction of the Bahrain Circuit. The project became a national objective for the Kingdom and a lot of effort was put into making it the best racetrack possible. As the Honorary President of the Bahrain Motor Federation, it was easy for the Crown Prince to see the need for a proper racetrack in the country. By the time that the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix was scheduled to take place in 2005, the racetrack was still not complete. However, it was advanced enough for the race to take place which is exactly what happened. The success was phenomenal and the track has hosted an annual Formula One race ever since.

As a desert track, the Bahrain International Circuit has posed rather unique challenges. For one thing, there were concerns that sand would blow onto the circuit and disrupt the races. Organisers managed to overcome this by spraying the sand surrounding the track with a special adhesive to prevent movement. The track was designed by the German architect Hermann Tilke and it cost roughly US $150 million to construct. The circuit features six separate tracks: a Grand Prix track, an inner track, an outer track, a paddock circuit, a drag strip and an oval track. The full circuit measures 6.4 kilometres in length and has 15 turns.

The Bahrain International Circuit hosted the opening race of the 2010 F1 Grand Prix Championship on 12-14 March, with Rubens Barrichello taking first place in his Cosworth-powered Williams.

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