Paving starts at Bushy Park Barbados

Paving starts at Bushy Park Barbados

Contractors working on the comprehensive refurbishment of the 40-year-old Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados started the last lap of phase one of the programme yesterday (Tuesday, February 25). Almost exactly six months since the transformation begin, the first tarmac was laid on the St Philip circuit, an exciting - and emotional - moment for the developers.

As workmen started to apply asphalt to the white marl base at the famous Hammer Bend, Operations Director of Bushy Park Circuit Inc (BPCI) Mark Hamilton said: "For everyone involved, this is a very exciting day. So much has been achieved over the past few months by the dedicated team of personnel working in all areas of the project."

Phase one of the circuit's redevelopment into a multi-purpose motor sport facility remains on target for completion within the next few weeks. Top Gear Festival Barbados (May 17/18), including the opening round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship, is already attracting worldwide attention, key to the facility's positioning as a driver for the island's vital sports-tourism product.

Nearly all the 1.3-kilometre layout from 1971 remains, although excavated and widened to a constant width of 12 metres, to blend in with the new southern loop. With a total length of 2.2kms, the circuit is designed to achieve Grade 3 certification from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), while internal link roads create a kart circuit of 1.2kms, which will meet 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 and Touring Cars, and karting events up to World Championship level.

The asphalt top surface will be laid in a clockwise direction, south from the Hammer Bend to Shak Shak, another of the historic circuit's iconic corners and the lowest point on the redesigned layout, and then on to the new southern loop. The work, which is expected to take three weeks, weather permitting, is the final component of the race track reconstruction, following completion of gravel traps and kerbing; grading of the infield areas is complete, landscaping is under way, also installation of safety barriers.

In parallel with the work on the track layout, extensive regrading of 'The Hill', the traditional focus for fans on the northern side of the old circuit, has created a much larger spectator bank, stretching all the way from the drag strip launch pad in the west to the Hammer Bend in the east.

A key element of the revamped infrastructure is the drainage system, with more wells than in the past, particularly to the north. An earthen drain with sink-wells has been constructed along the full length of the spectator banking, which will prevent water from the hill flowing across the track, by diverting it either into the wells or a catchment area by Hammer Bend.

Reviewing the project's progress, Hamilton said: "We have kept pretty closely to our original targets, and I'm delighted we have started to lay the top surface today. Obviously, there are many more things to do - the perimeter fence will be here within a few weeks, and will be installed as soon as possible, while work on the pit building and the paddock area is making good progress.

"From a spectator perspective, it was always our aim to enhance the experience for future patrons. The spectator bank now has a uniform slope, it is much bigger, and the grass is growing well, replacing the bare rock of the past - I think it will be a great place for patrons and their families to bring their fold-out chairs and blankets, similar to many race tracks around the world, and with ample concessions nearby for refreshments."

Since the 1970s, Bushy Park has attracted 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 strip, while other disciplines, such as autocross, dexterity, drifting and, in the future, off-roading will be catered for.