Grand Prix of Houston kicks off construction
HOUSTON - The Grand Prix of Houston is now just 15 days away, and officials kicked off the final phase of the construction effort today with a groundbreaking ceremony at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park, which will host the Grand Prix on April 20-22. Grand Prix officials were joined by representatives of the American Le Mans Series and the Houston-based Risi Competizione Race Team, including driver Nic Johnssen.
During the ceremony, Johnssen piloted a Ferrari 360GT racecar through a giant ribbon in front of the Budweiser Bridge for a "turbo charged ribbon cutting" to officially open JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park for the upcoming Grand Prix. Over the next two weeks, four of the temporary bridges will be erected, more than 1,600 concrete blocks weighing 9,000 lbs each will be put in place, diamond grinding will be performed on certain areas to smooth the racing surface, and three miles of fencing will be installed to create the temporary street circuit where some of the best drivers in the world will compete during the Grand Prix.
The finished product will be a 1.7 mile temporary street course that is designed to optimize the experience for fans and drivers alike. The circuit will include ten turns, including turn four, a sweeping turn around the historic Reliant Astrodome. That turn will take the drivers into a short straightaway by Reliant Stadium, before several quick turns position the cars towards the finish line in front of Reliant Arena. For 2007, an additional turn has been added, a quick left-hander after the opening straightaway, designed to replace the temporary chicane that was added before last year's race.
The massive construction effort includes much more than just a racetrack. To accommodate the thousands of fans who will attend the three-day event, seven grandstands, multiple corporate hospitality areas, and several general admission viewing areas will be added throughout the 345-acre Reliant Park facility. Several of the grandstands have been moved to better accommodate fans, including grandstands 6 and 7, which have been moved inside the racetrack to move fans closer to the action.
When the gates open on April 20, fans will also find a festival of activities within the infield, including a beach volleyball court, Budweiser concert stage, the Choice Homes Family Fun & Sports Zone, beer gardens, go-kart racing, and much more. The paddock areas will once again be a major attraction, and for 2007 all paddocks will be located outside. The Champ Car paddock, which last year was located inside the Reliant Arena and required a separate ticket, has been moved outside and will be free of charge for all fans.
Grand Prix of Houston officials are now working nearly around the clock to ensure that the racetrack and all facilities are completed on time. As Grand Prix of Houston construction moves into its final phase, officials are very optimistic about the progress.
"We are excited to be underway at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park, and we are now right on schedule for the Grand Prix of Houston," said Kyle Novak, Director of Operations for the Grand Prix. "Reliant Park is wonderful facility to build a racetrack, and we believe that the drivers, teams, and fans will be delighted with the results when the gates open on April 20."