MCS In The News:
Feature: Constructing the Grand Prix of Denver., August 10, 2004

As any motorsport fans knows, the logistical effort behind any street race is truly gargantuan and the Champ Car event on the streets of Denver is no different as Londoner Martyn Thake, director of operations for this years race, knows only too well.

Thake, who is the principal behind Motorsport Consulting Services, a company that designs and builds racetracks, is the man who will ensure that every not, bolt, barrier, bridge and hoarding is in exactly the right place come Sunday August 15th and the third annual Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver.

As someone who has worked with Champ Cars for many years, Thake is no stranger to turning normal city streets into international motor racing venues in a matter of hours. Although the majority of the 1.37-mile Denver track is situated in the car parks of the city’s impressive Pepsi Centre, it poses several unique challenges to Thake and his team.

“Denver is one of the most challenging temporary tracks to build,” says the 46 year-old, who now resides in Crested Butte, Colorado. “Even though 80% of the track is built in the parking Lot of the Pepsi Centre, we still have huge logistical considerations.

“The area that contains the track also contains two concert venues,” added Thake. “The Pepsi Centre and the Universal Lending Pavilion (ULP). The Pepsi centre holds about 15,000 people and the ULP 5,000, twice in the past week at the same time! In the past fourteen days we have had Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Cindy Lauper, Chris Issac, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago and BB King playing on site.”

Thake helped design and operate Denver’s initial attempt at hosting a Champ Car race in 1990 and 1991 and was a key consultant in the development of the current layout, which first hosted a Champ Car event in 2002. He is also a principal figure behind a series of recent changes to the current facility, which looks set to dramatically improve the chances of any overtaking during the race.

After the first two Grand Prix’s of Denver were criticised for their lack of overtaking, Thake and his team have attempted to widen the facility wherever possible, a situation that has resulted in the previously ultra-tight turns one and two area now being touted as potentially the best passing point on the whole track.

The start/finish line will also be moved from the Auraria Parkway to the middle of the Pepsi Centre parking lot, allowing pre and post-race activities to take place in the heart of the track while the turn five section has also been changed, on the advice of Sebastien Bourdais no less, from a sweeping hairpin to a ‘hard in, hard out’ 90 degree corner.

However Thake and Co. won’t be able to push ahead with preparations for the weekend until 7pm on Wednesday evening, less than 40 hours before the first support series practice session of the weekend.

“We are unable to close the road (Auraria Parkway) that we use for the pit lane (west bound) until Wednesday after the evening rush-hour and the main strait (east bound) until Thursday after the morning rush- hour,” Thake continued. “This means that the bridge that spans 170 feet across both lanes cannot begin going up until Wednesday evening and cannot be completed until late Thursday.”

As with any street race, the amount of safety equipment and overall tonnage of the various barriers required to make 200mph motor racing safe just metres from the office front door, is staggering.

Between 7pm on Wednesday and 8:30am Friday morning, when the Formula BMW drivers take to the track for their opening session of the weekend, Thake and his team will install three temporary bridges, which required a dozen trucks to transport them 900 miles up from Houston in Texas. There is also the small matter of ensuring that 2164 pieces of 12 foot-long concrete blocks, equating to no less than 8.656 tonnes, 26,000 feet of special race fencing, 10 grandstands, 10,500 tyres and 22,000 feet of steel spectator fencing are also correctly put into place.

“Oh yes, and we still have to make sure that all the Pepsi Centre employees, one residential building, two restaurants and a light rail station remain open for business!” concluded Thake.

2004 Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver – Construction Timeline

Wednesday, August 11th: 7:00PM
Close westbound Auraria Parkway
Begin construction of pedestrian bridge
Begin construction of turn 4 and turn 5 runoffs
Install approximately 500 feet of concrete barrier, fence cable and tyres
Install barrier, fence and bridge signs
Build pit lane in preparation for teams to set-up on Thursday morning

Thursday, August 12th: 10:00AM
Close east bound Auraria Parkway
Begin construction of second half of pedestrian bridge
Begin construction of front strait
Complete turn 4 and 5 runoffs
Install approximately 500 feet of concrete barrier, fence cable and tyres
Install barrier, fence and bridge signs