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Building the course

The streets of St. Petersburg have been quietly buzzing for the past month as construction has been under way for the third annual IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

By DANA OPPENHEIM
Published March 30, 2007


The streets of St. Petersburg have been quietly buzzing for the past month as construction has been under way for the third annual IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Dillon Construction Company, the city of St. Petersburg and the Indy Racing League work closely together to ensure the smooth and precise transition of St. Petersburg's downtown into a world-class racing venue. A look at how the transformation takes place:

Protective barriers

The 1.8-mile street course is enclosed by more than 8 miles of fencing. A cable-enforced wire fence placed on 20-million pounds of concrete makes the retaining wall closest to the track, helping prevent debris from exiting the track. A second barrier, a wire chain fence, stands about 11 feet from the track to contain spectators.

Seating options

Grandstands and suites, made of metal and aluminum, are built along the main stretch and inboard of the track. The crew starts with the framework before adding ramps, stairs and lifts for disabled access. Staff writer Brant James recommends the grandstands at Turn 10 and pit road exit for the best views.

Yacht docks

Crews drive steel columns into sand to support floating steel dock platforms for 50 yacht slips in the south basin water near Turn 10. Multimillion-dollar yachts dock there on race weekend and include the largest boats, Detroit Eagle owned by Roger Penske and Lady Linda owned by Felix Sabates, that measure 157 feet.

Tires

Stacked rows of tires are located inside the fence at corner runoff areas - including Turns 1, 4, 9, 10, 12 and 13. The 540 palettes, with 30-36 specially league-designed tires each, help slow down the car and prevent injuries. Plastic rumble strips are placed on the track to discourage the drivers from cutting corners.

Track surface

Bumps and depressions in the 2,000 feet of asphalt mix - created for the 2003 Champ Car race - are repaired with 8-foot fiberized steel concrete, the same material used on airport runways. The eight manholes (above) around the track are welded down; a speeding car creates enough force to lift it while passing over it.

Pedestrian crossings

Four structured steel trusses and stairs are erected offsite, stored and brought completed to the track. These pedestrian bridges allow spectators to cross the track in safety. Precise time schedules are coordinated by the city and security to ensure pedestrian crossings and races do not overlap.

Sources: Dale Dillon, Dillon Construction Co., Grand Prix of St. Petersburg; City of St. Petersburg; Times research