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Oct 27, 2001

Road Atlanta Adds Spectator Seating In Chicane, Pours Concrete In Turn Seven

Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Two new changes to Road Atlanta have caught the attention of competitors at this week's WERA Grand National Finals.<BR><BR>A hillside outside (riders' left) the chicane at the end of the back straightaway has been terraced with concrete steps and gravel. Fans can sit directly on the concrete terrace steps or set up folding chairs, and the area won't become a mud bog when it rains.<BR><BR>"It's just a lot more professional," said Road Atlanta Facility Manager Steve Lanier, who added that the terraced area was built in the five weeks prior to the recent Petit LeMans auto endurance, at a cost of over $250,000. The area will seat 8000 fans.<BR><BR>A grass slope in the same area--previously unuseable for spectating--has also been terraced, although it remains covered in grass.<BR><BR>Lanier said that the turn ten section of the track can now serve as an ampitheater and that a band played a concert using turn ten as their stage during the week-long Petit LeMans event.<BR><BR>The surface in turn seven has also been changed, from a mix of asphalt with a concrete patch to entirely concrete with the high spots ground away but waves remaining.<BR><BR>"The original concrete track surface, that we could not remove before we repaved, is underneath there," said Lanier. "The asphalt on top of it was starting to move around too much. We felt that it might not make it through the Petit event. We decided to make it perfect."<BR><BR>About the time crews started working on the terraced seating, they also tore up a 150 by 25-foot section of turn seven. "We cut down 10-12 inches of pavement. We filled it in with a DOT, 6000-mix-grade of concrete. With such a large area, it was hard to pour it perfect. So the next day, we took a grader to get it perfectly level. Here at Road Atlanta, we don't particularly care for concrete. We hate concrete, but that's the best solution we had until we can repave the entire track in two or three years. When we repave, the track will be asphalt only."<BR><BR>Lanier, an 18-year employee of Road Atlanta, said the goal was to increase traction under power for cars exiting turn seven. <BR><BR>We asked a few motorcycle racers with recent Road Atlanta experience what they thought of the change to turn seven.<BR><BR>"They should have left it the same," said Roadracingworld.com's Chris Ulrich. "Taking a grader to a racetrack is a half-ass way to fix a problem. You would think that with all of the money they put into this racetrack that they would be able to repave one corner.<BR><BR>"There's more bumps than before, and the pavement is more inconsistent. I haven't gotten into or out of that corner well all weekend."<BR><BR>"It's gonna hurt us," said Vesrah's Tray Batey, who besides racing also serves as an instructor for Road Atlanta's Kevin Schwantz School. "The corner is not as fast as it was before. It's rougher now than it was for the last Schwantz School about two months ago. They may have torn up the corner in the last car race or something.<BR><BR>"It's concrete now. I guess they didn't get it level. Then they ground it down, but they only hit the high spots. The spots that they didn't hit are like polished concrete and are very slippery. I'm having trouble dodging the bumps through that corner. The fastest line is right over the bumps, but they are terrible."<BR><BR>"It's fine," said Josh Hayes, the AMA Formula Xtreme lap record holder for Road Atlanta. "It's just graded up. It's a little bumpier. It may inhibit lap times by a fraction, but I haven't had any problems with it."<BR><BR>When told that the motorcycle racers did not particularly care for the changes to turn seven, Lanier said, "I have a hard time believing that, but the bikes are a whole different animal. Maybe right there on the inside edge, it tapers off and the grader didn't quite get it."