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Jun 20, 2001

Updated Post With Designer's View Of Situation And Photos: Rausch Creek Opening Delayed Until 2002

From a press release issued by Rausch Creek Motorsports Park:<BR><BR>"Rausch Creek Motorsports Park will not be open in 2001 for spectator events.<BR><BR>"To avoid further confusing announcements about the opening of the road course, the management at Rausch Creek has decided to cancel the remainder of this year's events.<BR><BR>"Originally slated to open in May of this year, Rausch Creek has experienced a variety of events that factor into the decision to postpone what was to be the inaugural year. Our original construction schedule had us paving the<BR>road course in the fall of 2000. Serious safety issues had to be addressed prior to the commitment of a final design, and those issues prevented us from paving at that time. Then, with the long winter, we realized we would be very hard pressed to meet the date for our May opening. A variety of smaller delays, including smaller design changes and machinery breakdown, have also contributed to the postponement of our inaugural year.<BR><BR>"Andrew Stutzman, General Manager, had this to say, 'We found ourselves pressured by the original dates we had set to open, and felt as if we may be making small compromises just to get the track open. The last thing we want to do is compromise anything, let alone the safety and longevity of Rausch Creek, so we decided to back off from such ambitious goals, and allow ourselves the time to complete the project so that it exceeds our expectations, instead of just meeting them.'<BR><BR>"Quinn Lickman, Construction Manager for Rausch Creek, added, 'We are maintaining close to the same pace (construction) we have all along, only slowing down to make sure all the small details are completed. We honestly just underestimated the amount of material we had to move to build the track. The actual time it will take to pave the track is relatively short compared to the time needed to complete the construction of the verges and safety zones. In addition, we must be very careful how we address the drainage issues for the track. It is important that we find the perfect balance between providing more than adequate run-off, and draining the water away from the track properly. While the racers and spectators will enjoy the elevation that Rausch Creek has to offer, it does increase construction difficulties.'<BR><BR>"The construction is still proceeding and we are looking forward to having the surface paved by late summer. This will allow us to host some practice days and official testing that are required to hold larger, future events in 2002."<BR><BR>In response to the above release issued by Rausch Creek, track designer Alan Wilson of Wilson Motorsport Inc. sent this letter:<BR><BR>"You have received a press release from Rausch Creek Motor Sports Park concerning the delay of racing activities until the start of the 2002 race season.<BR><BR>"The reason for my letter is to address the statement that part of the delay was due to 'serious safety concerns'.<BR><BR>"This is not true.<BR><BR>"Delays to this project were many, although the biggest problem was not in the time taken to build the facility but in unrealistic expectations as to when it would be completed. In fact, the time taken to design and construct is very much in line with that required for any of the other facilities in which I have been involved. (Typically 18 months from start of the design process).<BR><BR>"In this case, inexperience on the part of the track management has lead them to suggest that safety problems, among others caused the delay. Their reason for this was well intended in that they chose to use 'safety' as a reason so as to ensure their customers that the track was being built to the highest possible safety standards and that attention to this resulted in the delay. (They obviously hoped this would reduce some of the inevitable criticism that may result from the cancellation of events in 2001.)<BR><BR>"Unfortunately, in their inexperience they did not realize that any reference to safety concerns could, and most probably would be taken by many to suggest that Rausch Creek may have safety issues when in operation.<BR><BR>"This is very definitely not the case.<BR><BR>"As you may be aware, I have designed several tracks used extensively for motorcycle events, including GingerMan, Carolina Motorsports Park, Pikes Peak and Las Vegas, and I am very proud of the safety record that each of these facilities have been able to maintain. I have also designed the new Alabama circuit which has already received high praise from FIM Safety officials for its safety features. Consequently I am extremely concerned that Rausch Creek could be tarnished before it even opens by any suggestion that it may have safety issues.<BR><BR>"In designing a track I always require that the minimum safety zone alongside the edge of the track be at least 100 feet, with more required as necessary by high speed approaches, fast corners or downhill braking zones. I also require that all safety zones have grades similar to the cross and longitudinal grades of the track in order to eliminate downhill runoff areas that contribute to loss of control. (In fact, the Alabama track is probably the first in the world where all run-offs meet this criteria). I have also specified that all my new tracks incorporate emergency access roads along the outer edges of the safety zones so that no ambulance or emergency vehicle need ever run on the track surface or in the verge close to the asphalt.<BR><BR>"It is these three elements which added complexity to the construction of Rausch Creek. This track has many different grade changes, each of which has necessitated particular attention to cut and fill, grading and drainage to ensure that my standards are met. Rausch Creek management have been extremely cooperative in undertaking the work required, much of which was not recognized when the project was first begun (and when track rental commitments were first made).<BR><BR>"This project has grown far beyond its initial scope and promises to become one of the most challenging, enjoyable, and I hope, best motorcycle road racing courses in the country. I can assure you that it will be as safe as we can possibly make it and that it will serve as an example to other facilities of how to incorporate safety and the racing needs of motorcycles into a difficult, challenging and interesting terrain.<BR><BR>"I have included a disc with a number of photographs taken during my most recent visit to Rausch Creek (June 12). This will show the current state of construction which is far more advanced than it may look, especially when compared to some of the original terrain (I have included some early pictures for comparison). I will gladly discuss these pictures with you to help you get a better understanding of the layout, the construction challenges that have had to be faced and our expectations of how it will look when complete.<BR><BR>"Finally, I would like to congratulate you on the efforts you have made with regard to the Air Fence program. Although I try to design my tracks so that Air Fence is not necessary, I recognize the vital role it can play and applaud your efforts. I was however disappointed to note in the current edition of Roadracing World that some tracks have proved less than co-operative in installing Air Fence (at least without direct AMA involvement) on the grounds of liability. In my opinion this is not a valid reason for failing to install a proven system. I would be interested in learning which tracks have not co-operated as I may be able to help in persuading any with whom I may also work in my role as Safety Consultant to the SCCA and through my very close relationship with the major insurance companies.<BR><BR>"I hope that you will understand my concerns that the safety elements of the design of Rausch Creek are not an issue and that integrating the basic safety standards that I have designed (and will continue to detail) into the project is an ongoing and normal part of the design/construction program. <BR><BR>"I would be happy to discuss this matter and any other safety issue related to track design or safety system installation with you, at your convenience.<BR><BR>"Sincerely<BR><BR>"Alan Wilson, President"<BR><BR><hr noshade color="#CCCCCC">Construction underway at Rausch Creek:<P><CENTER><img src="../issues/jul01/rausch1.jpg"><BR><BR><img src="../issues/jul01/rausch2.jpg"><hr noshade color="#CCCCCC">