Work starts on Bushy Park redevelopment

Work starts on Bushy Park redevelopment

Work has started on Phase 1 of a comprehensive upgrade of the 40-year-old Bushy Park race track in Barbados into a multi-purpose motor sport facility, which will provide a springboard for sustained growth of the island's most popular spectator sport.

The works contractor moved on to the 65-acre site in the south-eastern parish of St Philip last Monday, August 26. Phase 1, which includes various new track configurations, a new Clubhouse, pits complex, car parks and landscaping, is scheduled for completion in 2014. Mark Hamilton, Facilities Manager for the developer, Bushy Park Circuit Inc, confirmed that initial works had started, including the laying out and excavation of the new tracks, and that the various regulatory processes were ongoing.

Hamilton, no stranger to the world of local motor sport, said: "Bushy Park has served the island's motor sport family well for 40 years, and this is the start of an exciting new chapter in the life of the circuit, the parish of St Philip and the island of Barbados."
Nearly all of the original 1.3-kilometre layout will remain, although the existing surface will be completely excavated and re-laid, to blend in with a new southern loop bringing the total length to 2.02kms, with a constant width of 12 metres. In addition, internal link roads will allow for more than one circuit configuration and facilitate the creation of a kart circuit of up to 1.2kms.

The full-length 'National Circuit' is being developed to achieve Federation Internationale d'Automobile (FIA) Grade 3 approval, while the kart track will meet the Grade A venue requirements for CIK-FIA events; once licensed, Bushy Park will be able to host International circuit-racing categories such as Formula 3, Touring Cars, and karting events up to World Championship level, opening up new horizons for the island's vital sports-tourism product.

Bushy Park will be joining some classic and world-famous circuits on the FIA Grade 3 list, including Australia's Mount Panorama, home of the annual Bathurst 1000 touring car race, Germany's 26-kilometre Nurburgring Nordschleife and British Touring Car Championship venues such as Oulton Park and Thruxton.

The original Clubhouse, built in 1972, will be replaced on the same site by a two-storey building, enlarged to accommodate corporate hospitality as well as spectator facilities, while the Race Control Tower, an addition in the 1990s, will also come down; the new pits complex on the south side of the circuit will house Stewards, Race Control, Timekeepers and the Media. The start/finish straight will be relocated to the new loop, closer to the pits.

The multi-purpose facility will also offer a quarter-mile drag racing strip, while other disciplines, such as autocross, dexterity, drifting and, in the future, off-roading will be catered for; the venue will also be open to local businesses for product launches, track days and driver training programmes, while future plans include a driver and marshal training centre that will serve to improve safety in motor sport and on the island's roads.

Hamilton added: "In the past 40 years, every one of the island's motor sport clubs has organised events at Bushy Park and we are committed to working with them all again in the future. At a time when motor sport in the island has been enjoying unprecedented growth across all disciplines, despite the global economic crisis, we believe that this redevelopment will further support our motor sport family and the island, through the further expansion of its sports-tourism product, in weathering that storm.
"Bushy Park is in safe hands. Many of those funding the redevelopment have been involved since the very start, more than 40 years ago, while the investment consortium is headed by a group of established and reputable businessmen."

While no public money is being spent on the redevelopment, the island's motor sport community has enjoyed the support and encouragement of successive administrations, as Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) President Andrew Mallalieu explained at a brief ground-breaking ceremony conducted by FIA President Jean Todt in August 2012: "While the strategy to acquire Bushy Park was hatched under then Prime Minister Owen Arthur, the acquisition of the land occurred under Prime Minister David Thompson and, today, the ground-breaking was held in Prime Minister Stuart's term, demonstrating the country's on-going commitment to this long-term goal."

The FIA has also been very supportive of the plans for developing island motor sport and President Todt said: "I was very impressed this morning with what you have started at Bushy Park, and it has been a privilege here to be able to speak to your drivers, starting from eight years old, as well as the managers of your clubs, and share their passion and fascination with our sport."

When the Government of Barbados acquired the Bushy Park Plantation in 2010, it agreed to lease the area covering the existing circuit to the BMF, which then approached the FIA for advice and assistance. A grant from the FIA Institute's Facility Improvement Programme was supplemented by significant local funding to create the Master Plan on which the development now under way is based. That work was undertaken by the FIA's Facility Advisory Partner (FAP), Apex Circuit Design, alongside a number of international consultants and a team from the BMF, which provided vital 'local knowledge'.

In addition to the design of the circuit and its infrastructure, the 200-page Master Plan includes an outline business plan targeted at the economic and commercial sustainability of the new Bushy Park, along with detailed analysis of the architectural, engineering and environmental issues involved.

Of the FIA's 135 member countries, Barbados is one of only 10 with a population of less than 1 million; with a total of around 400 competition licences issued each year, it is also arguably the most active motor sport community per head of the population of any country in the world. And, in 2014, it is set to become the first country in the Caribbean with a licensed FIA Grade 3 race circuit.