In a fairly unprecedented action NOLA Motorsport Park designer Alan Wilson wrote an op-ed for Racer.com defending his track from, well, people like me.
Needless to say the announcement has brought forth the usual critics, complainers and know-everythings, which is very unfortunate because the preponderance of critics of IndyCar like these over the years has done nothing but hurt the series.” Alan Wilson in Racer.com
Wilson, who also designed Barber Motorsport Park and Miller Motorsport Park among other tracks, took a shot at those of us who think that NOLA isn’t ready. Wilson wrote that despite the lack of camping, permanent stands, limited toilets, a near complete lack of on-site parking and doesn’t currently meet any FIA safety ratings NOLA Motorsports Park will be good for the series, in June.
Wilson wrote that there are several buildings, and something called “The Corporate Center,” is very awesome, and I’m completely sure the average fan will have access to something called “The Corporate Center,” during the race weekend.
In fairness there’s no spectator parking or camping on Belle Isle for the Detroit Grand Prix either. I went to Detroit last year and their shuttle system worked mostly well, getting on the island was far easier than getting off the island. Of course Detroit has a number of parking decks within a few miles of Bell Isle and those streets were relatively free of traffic on race weekend, but I guess it won’t be that long of a ride from the Superdome to the track. What’s an hour on a bus go 20 miles? Totally fun! Totally more comfortable than driving my own car and tailgating.
He does raise a number of good points. Because the track is completely flat, and free of shade-giving trees, spectators should be able to see 100 percent of the track from temporary grandstands that are easy to install. He said the track could easily put up enough stands for 100,000 fans. Of course it’s probably fair to ask how quickly 100,000 fans could leave the track on the signal access point to the one two-lane road that has a large neighborhood on one side, no significant parking within a ten mile radius, and no hotels within walking distance. Motorcycles can overtake easily there, and so reasonably much larger Indycars will have multiple passing opportunities available to them.
The track is wide, ranging from 40ft minimum to 50 feet at the entrance to key corners to enhance overtaking and has provided excellent racing so far. It is well liked by drivers of powerful DP cars who have tested there on many occasions.. Turns 5 to 8 may be the fastest turns in North American road racing, while the Turn 8-12 complex is very challenging and surprisingly fast (close to 100mph in a Mustang on entrance and 80mph through the sweepers. The Indy cars will be spectacular to watch there. Turns 13 to 16 are extremely complex and offer multiple lines and brute force overtaking potential. The pit straight is more than 3300ft ending in a sharp right hander with plenty of run-off along the extension of the straight. — Alan Wilson in Racer.com
Wilson does admit that there is one, and only one, downside to his track, mainly that it’s built on a swamp. He wrote, “There are inevitable some downsides, the most notable being drainage during major rainstorms. Due to the high water table and flat surfaces, drainage is not the best, so a really wet race may result in delays.”
Again, this makes me question the logic of, “Let’s hold the race in June, and not February or March,” that Michael Andretti seems to think is a winner. According to WeatherSpark.com there is a 50 to 60 percent of rain on any given day in New Orleans. Also, and this something fairly important to consider – hurricane season begins June 1. Am I the only one who sees the problem with holding the race on a date that has a 50-60 percent chance of being called off because of standing water? I went through the track’s Facebook page and found several announcements about closing the park because of the drainage situation.
On Tuesday the plan to bring the Verizon Indycar Series to New Orleans in 2015 was publicly announced. Michael Andretti is behind it, and the track owner is partnering with the Gov. Bobby Jindal in the hopes of shaking $4.5 million out of the state of Louisiana for unspecified upgrades.
The announcement, I feel, was a bit premature. You see this sort of thing all the time in state politics. Someone has a project they want to put their name on, so they go public in the hopes of finding support. Sometimes it happens, most times it does. Again, I was a political reporter for a long time, so forgive me if I’m a little jaded with it comes to these sorts of things.
I did some readings and the Louisiana legislature is going through it’s budgeting process right now, and lawmakers have stripped a good bit of Jindal’s proposed budget. According to Gannett the House is looking at cutting $6 million for colleges, and $60 million for pay raises for state workers. In this environment I have a hard time thinking the legislature will go along with $4.5 million for improvements to a private facility when they’re thinking of freezing pay for state employees.
As more details have come out I don’t think this is going to happen. The organizers want a bad month, Indycar is stressing that they are “Potentially exploring” the idea, and it’s dependent on state funding that might not materialize in a tight budget year. To me the value in going to a new market on a track that’s not quite ready is that it’s a warm-weather track. I’m willing to overlook any of the perceived flaws if it gets us more racing earlier. I will even make the trip down from Atlanta to support the race, in February or March,
It’s not that I don’t think Indycar shouldn’t race at NOLA Motorsport Park, I just don’t think they should be racing there now.
More Reaction from Twitter:
Well, I was interested in the NOLA IndyCar race but looks like Piyush “Volcanoes Don’t Exist” Jindal is involved. Good luck with that..
— DZ (@HalfShaftBlues) May 4, 2014
Indycar to NOLA is a bad idea, for 50 reasons. #1 this place has 0 basic fan aminitys. U can be a country club or a race track but not both
— David Crumley (@Speedtown4) May 7, 2014
I had concerns that were later answered to my satisfaction. I think NOLA might be a good spot for IndyCar with the right development.
— Call me TJ (@TonyJWriter) May 7, 2014
— Christopher DeHarde (@CDeHarde) May 6, 2014