Bushy Park on Target for March Completion

Bushy Park on Target for March Completion

The first phase of the redevelopment of the 40-year-old Bushy Park race track in Barbados into a multipurpose motor sport facility is on target for completion at the end of March 2014. With the major groundworks for the track almost finished, attention is now turning to other aspects, including spectator facilities and drainage.

The original 1.3-kilometre layout is being extended to create a 2.02kms circuit, with a constant width of 12 metres, designed to achieve Grade 3 certification from motor sport's world governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). Once approved, the facility will be able to host FIA sanctioned categories, including single-seaters and touring cars, providing a major boost to the island's sports-tourism product.

Mark Hamilton, Operations Director of Bushy Park Circuit Inc (BPCI), which will operate the facility, said: "The track is now four inches below final tarmac level and that in itself is 85 to 90 per cent complete; we are also working on the lands and surrounding spectator areas, and that is about 65 per cent complete."

Since contractors moved on to the 65-acre site in the island's south-eastern parish of St Philip at the end of August, the area has been transformed. Extensive regrading of the spectator areas, particularly 'The Hill' on the northern side of the old circuit, provided thousands of tons of source material for the groundworks of the upgraded circuit; familiar landmarks including the Club House and Control Tower have gone, although the Mill, seen in the background of countless photographs over the past 40 years, remains.

Hamilton added: "From the initial planning stages, it was always the intention of the developers to retain as much of the character of what had existed before as practicable. In particular, the stretch of track known to motor sport fans as The Kink and Hammer Bend remains; as the new track is 12 metres wide, it does not look so aggressive now, but that characteristic of the original track is still there."

In fact, almost all the original layout remains, blended in with the new southern loop, which runs through what has been the pits area since the 1990s. The original elements incorporated in the new design have been excavated and widened and, in certain areas, elevation changes have been introduced - from the circuit's highest point, the final bend before the old start-line straight, to the lowest, Shak Shak, is a drop of around 13 metres, although the straight itself is closer to level than before; in addition, all corners will have between a three- and five-degree camber, allowing for faster speeds.

Of the work to be completed in the coming months, Hamilton said: "We are about 50 per cent overall through phase one of the development, despite losing a few days to rain recently; we are working seven days a week and are on course for our target of completion by the end of March, weather permitting.

Although the major groundworks for the track are now almost complete, there are still some technical aspects to work through, in respect of kerbs and run-off areas; we will not be starting to pave the track until that work is done, as no heavy equipment will be allowed on the track once surfaced."

In parallel with work on the track layout, major changes to the spectator facilities have also begun, work which is now changing up a gear. The regrading which provided source material for the groundworks has also created a much larger spectator bank, stretching all the way from the drag strip launch pad in the west to Hammer Bend in the east.

Hamilton explains: "We are determined to enhance the spectator experience for future patrons. Although not yet complete, as the old ambulance gate is still being used for heavy equipment access, the spectator bank will have a uniform slope and will be grassed, not bare rock. It will be great for patrons and their families to bring their fold-out chairs and blankets, to sit on the grass, similar to many race tracks around the world, and there will be ample concessions nearby for refreshments."

Work will also start shortly on the car park area alongside Gaskin Road, which is being regraded as part of a major rethink of drainage at the facility. Hamilton says: "We believe we have a good water plan in place, with lots more wells than in the past, particularly on the northern side of the property, which is where the water comes from."

In addition to the overall increase in the number of suckwells, earthen drains are being constructed along the full length of the spectator banking, which will prevent water from the hill flowing across the track by diverting it into a catchment area by Hammer Bend. Hamilton adds: "We will have to see how all this will work out after it's put in place, but careful thought has gone into it. We want to make sure we have everything in place to manage water if and when it should arrive."

Since its early days in the 1970s, Bushy Park has attracted interest from overseas competitors, and the upgrade and FIA certification will carry that appeal to a new level. 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. Of BPCI's aim of turning the facility into a major sports-tourism product, Hamilton concluded: "It will be good for racing, good for those involved, good for the island and it will help to drive the economy."