More San Jose track changes UPDATE #13 This story, broke by AutoRacing1.com is now fact. San Jose will swap the pitlane and main straight to make the track much better. See Hot News story. This change was proposed by AutoRacing1.com before last year's race ever happened. It is a great move by the race organizers and the City. 01/06/06 We hear a press conference announcing the San Jose track upgrades is slated for later next week. 12/30/05 The reply we received from San Jose race boss Bob Singleton on this latest rumor was, "We are working on a couple of significant changes both on and off the track. Stay tuned as we should announce something soon. Always trying to make the experience for the drivers and fans better." 12/30/05 Nine months ago we proposed the track changes shown below for San Jose that would swap the pits and main straight thereby eliminating the chicane in the first turn chicane and making the main straight nice and long. At the time we were told it was a fire code issue and it could not be done because there would not be enough room behind the pits for fire equipment, to which we said it's just as much as Long Beach has. This change of course would upgrade the track from being a Mickey Mouse nightmare to a proper street circuit. According to rumors, this change may indeed be made. We are trying to confirm.......
04/13/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on today's story - see Hot News page.
03/31/05 The Valley Transportation Authority gave its blessing Wednesday night to a new course for the San Jose Grand Prix, one that will run through more of downtown San Jose and disrupt transit service for three days this summer. The unanimous 12-0 board vote dismissed a staff report opposed to the change. The agency said the course change could cost up to $400,000 -- money San Jose officials say the city will pay from funds it expects to get from the organization putting on the July 31 race. ``We are not asking VTA to subsidize this event,'' said San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, a VTA board member. ``I think this will increase ridership and we'll see an extra financial benefit for the VTA.'' The San Jose City Council will vote on the new course April 12. The original route, approved in December by the city council, revolved around HP Pavilion. But hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs related to construction on two Highway 87 overpasses were the primary factor that forced organizers to look for another course. The new route will be closer to the heart of downtown. Although it avoids the Highway 87 overpasses, it crosses light-rail lines at Almaden Boulevard and Market Street. VTA General Manager Peter Cipolla recommended that the board reject the request, saying that the agency's ``first responsibility'' is to its current riders. The transit district will have to use buses to bridge the gap in trolley service between the Tamien station south of downtown and the transit mall one block east of the new course. Bus lines also would have to be re-routed. Excerpt from San Jose Mercury News
03/31/05 Here are some photos shot yesterday pertaining to this topic. Our proposed pit lane (left photo) would be on the Convention Center side and the track (center photo) would move to the opposite side. Turn 1, a lefthander, is shown in the center-right photo. The organizers could extend the track by 1/4-mile by moving Turn 1 further down the road in the center-right photo. That would mean looping the cars down Almaden Avenue (right photo) which has some homes. These people would have to be sent on a free vacation for the weekend, but it's well worth the price. The track would then be approx. 1.75-miles long and no longer Mickey Mouse.
03/29/05 In the image to the right we make what was a no-passing allowed Mickey Mouse San Jose track into one with a nice long straight that will enable passing. The fix was done by moving the pit lane to the Convention Center side of the main straight and eliminating the silly chicane that creates a safety hazard (by putting the end on the pit lane wall looking straight on at the drivers - bad idea) and kills any chance for passing on the short 1.5-mile track. It's clear the track designers had the pits on the wrong side of the road so the paddock area was right behind the pits to make it easier on the teams. As Cleveland has proven, although desirable, the paddock area does not have to be directly behind the pits. The teams can tow the cars a couple of hundred feet to one of two paddock areas shown. It's about time Champ Car puts the fans first by making a track that drivers can pass on, even if the teams have to suffer slightly. This officially starts the campaign to rid San Jose of its silly chicane.
03/29/05 This morning's San Jose Mercury News printed a retraction concerning the newly proposed circuit direction. The cars will travel in a "counterclockwise" direction as we pointed out when we saw the their track diagram. Apparently, the San Jose Mercury News made this error. We measured the track again today - it is slightly over 1.5 miles in length as shown. Too short in our book and it should be lengthened as shown in red by one of our readers below.
03/27/05 To the right is a higher quality version of the proposed new San Jose track layout published in the San Jose Mercury News on Saturday. The scale shown is not accurate for some reason because using that the track measures longer than it really is. As previously reported, the track is now shown to run clockwise instead of counterclockwise and the longest straight is so short it will be difficult to pass - entering the main straight chicane. The driver will be facing a concrete wall at the chicane that will separate them from the cars coming in the opposing direction, a major accident just waiting to happen. For safety reasons alone, the track should run in the opposite direction from what is shown.
03/26/05 A reader writes, When is Champ Car and its track designers going to get a clue? The track as laid out in the Mercury News (see below) is a Mickey Mouse 1.5-miles long. I have included a slightly longer version (right) that measures 1.75-miles long (see red lines). Still short, but better than whoever laid out the other one. I drove both layouts and I measured both. Both are doable, but mine is better. Mine even avoids Santa Clara Street at the top. It's a main thoroughfare and must be avoided at all costs. Dave Steele, San Jose, CA Dear Dave, From the map yours certainly does look better, but there must be some issues that make it impossible as I doubt the designers are that blind. Their original one will have to be cut back from Santa Clara at the top so it's only 1.4-miles long.......which as you state, is as Mickey Mouse as they come. Your configuration would also require the race run counterclockwise because there is insufficient runoff in the chicane halfway up the main straight if you lengthen that straight as you propose. We are not certain why Champ Car always tries to shoehorn in a track. It just cheapens the product and turns fans off. One reason why the Long Beach street circuit is so good is because it is 2-miles long and has a very long front straight. Mark C.
03/26/05 This San Jose Mercury News article says, New S.J. Grand Prix course racing against time. The San Jose Grand Prix is having a hard time finding the starting line. And while organizers and city officials think they have come up with a new and improved course, hurdles still need to be cleared and time is running out.
The original route, approved in December by the San Jose City Council for the July 31 race, began at HP Pavilion. But hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs related to construction on two Highway 87 overpasses were the primary factor that forced organizers to look for another course at the last minute.
They came up with one, closer to the heart of downtown and more photogenic than the first, that begins just south of the Hilton hotel. But while it avoids the Highway 87 overpasses, it crosses light rail lines twice -- and that has created another problem. Because the race would disrupt light rail and downtown bus service, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's board of directors needs to approve the course at its meeting Wednesday. VTA general manager Peter Cipolla, however, is recommending that the board reject that request, saying that the agency's ``first responsibility is to customers who depend on us for their daily transportation needs.''
The transportation agency would have to use buses to bridge the gap in light rail service between Tamien Station south of downtown and the transit mall one block east of the proposed new course. Other bus lines also would have to be re-routed.
``We're absolutely not on the hook,'' Cortese said he was told by City Manager Del Borgsdorf. ``Canary is paying all the bills.'' Cortese predicted the VTA board would approve the course, overruling the objections of Cipolla, whose tenure as general manager ends June 30. That would put matters in the city council's hands April 12.
If the course is changed, the extra costs linked to light rail would recur every year of the race, which has a five-year deal; the additional expenses tied to the Highway 87 construction along the original course would disappear once construction is completed in 2006.
Making things happen quickly is important. All of the necessary asphalt improvements -- less extensive on the second route than the first -- should be completed by April 30, for example.
``We have an existing agreement with the city, and we are going to hold an event here in San Jose,'' Dale Jantzen said. He left open the possibility, however, that it might be necessary to turn to a third course if the VTA doesn't give its approval Wednesday. [Editor's Note: The printed article has a more detailed track map which has the cars going in a "clockwise" direction. (The previous map had the cars going the other way!) the track now does not travel to Santa Clara St. which is a major VTA bus route.] More..... 03/23/05 We have added an image of the proposed new track. 03/23/05 This Monterey Herald article says, Organizers of this summer's San Jose Grand Prix are scrambling to get city approval for an 11th-hour course change that would send race cars streaking through the heart of downtown rather than on its fringe. Paving work that began last week has been halted on the original route that used the parking lot at HP Pavilion as both its start and finish. A source familiar with the alternative route who did not wish to be named said it would start in front of the Hilton hotel on Almaden Boulevard and skirt Plaza de Cesar Chavez at one point. Dale Jantzen, president of the Canary Fund, the nonprofit group that signed a five-year agreement with the city to stage the Champ Car World Series race, said a desire to contain costs and ''maximize exposure for the city of San Jose'' were behind the proposed changes. ''It's later than we'd like it to be, but there are alternatives out there that we owe it to everybody to explore,'' said Jantzen, declining to discuss specifics about the new route. Those who did were concerned about disrupting the last-minute negotiations. While the race isn't until July 31, Jantzen said the course must be set in the next few weeks because of asphalt and concrete work that would need to be done along either route. The Canary Fund is picking up the $2 million in repaving costs tied to the original course. Some $700,000 in city funds had been committed for work on the HP Pavilion parking lots, with the understanding that money would be repaid if the event turned a profit for Canary. ''We're still evaluating what the impacts are of any change as far as cost,'' said Paul Krutko, the city's director of economic development. Police and fire protection costs would have to be re-determined. An earlier environmental impact report could have to be redone. Two sources indicated paving costs for the new course would be much lower than for the first one, which needed extensive work along West St. John Street. And with HP Pavilion no longer part of the route, parking lot changes there wouldn't be necessary. The new route for the race, which features open-wheel cars reaching speeds of more than 150 mph, under consideration shows San Jose to a greater advantage, proponents argue. It passes by the city's Tech Museum, for example, and includes parts of Market Street and Almaden Boulevard.
''The reason the city is considering this at this time is because Canary has indicated it would be a better race course over the long term, that this will show off the city much better to 150 countries worldwide'' on television, said Krutko, noting that a course change would require City Council approval. The new course crosses light rail tracks -- something that was previously considered a barrier to holding the race in the downtown core. A Valley Transit Authority spokesman said buses could bridge gaps in rail service caused by the race. And Champ Car officials, normally reluctant to have sensitive race cars pass over rail lines, have toured the alternative route and given their blessing, one source said.
While construction of barriers and fences along the course could create problems for people trying to reach some downtown offices and businesses, the executive director of San Jose's Downtown Business Association said he welcomed the possible change. ''For this to come into the heart of the city, I think there's going to be a lot of excitement about this,'' Scott Knies said. At least one restaurant near HP Pavilion was less than thrilled at the possible shift of focus for the more than 100,000 people backers say will attend race events over three days. ''We've had so much to deal with this year,'' said Richard Arande, general manager at Henry's Hi-Life, which took a big hit because the NHL canceled its season. ''This would be a boost at the slowest month for us. In July, everybody barbecues.'' Workers last week already had started to repair sidewalks outside Henry's.
They also had removed medians on West Santa Clara Street under the Highway 87 overpass. If the course is changed, Krutko said, Canary would have to put new medians in place. ''I've never had one pulled in the middle like this,'' said Curtis Archibald, vice president of the Redwood City paving company doing the work. ''It's been a weird ride.'' If the event moves away from HP Pavilion, Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment -- the parent company of the Sharks -- would lose out on rental fees. But Malcolm Bordelon, the team's executive vice president for business operations, said ties would remain between the team and the race. ''They've contracted with us to manage marketing, ticket sales, publications,'' Bordelon said. ''We'd like to have it here, but they're the experts at what makes this a good event and we're supportive of it either way.''