The official ground breaking was held for Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub, a new racing circuit in Tennessee, aims to become “a world-class motorsports destination” that could host IndyCar and MotoGP in future, as ground breaking gets underway ahead of an initial 2023 opening.
Set to be constructed on a 773-acre site just off Exit 339 of I-40, in Westel, Flatrock Motorsports Park will feature a 3.50-mile Circuit Club track, a 2.67-mile Grand Prix track that can be linked for nearly six miles of the Endurance circuit. However, the $100 million project is also targeting entertainment options that make it attractive to those who aren’t necessarily keen to drive, as it marks its ground breaking ceremony on Wednesday morning.
“I think a world-class motorsports destination is what I keep saying — that’s what I want to be,” partner and president Rusty Bittle told RACER. “We think we’ll be one in the world, I don’t know if there’s anything else out there like we’re doing, so I think it will be very unique in the motorsports industry as well.
“This has been about a 20-year dream. It started as a kart track and has evolved into an 800-acre motorsports park. Ultimately for me, most tracks are not destinations. There are private clubs now that are not really open to the public, obviously, and then there’s tracks with track promoters. So we wanted to really bring that concept together and have two tracks — a commercial track and then a private facility — but then the most important thing was to have amenities and it be a destination.
“That’s what I think will make Flatrock different is that we will be a destination with hotels and villas, a winery, brewery, restaurants and things for people to do that aren’t even interested in getting on the track.
“We want wives and kids and family and friends to be able to come and have a good time as well, even if they don’t get on the track. That was the big push with Flatrock.”
Using the natural undulations of the Tennessee landscape, the Grand Prix track will be homologated to a level that allows any motorcycle category — right up to MotoGP — to race on the layout, while both that and the Club circuit are intended to be capable of hosting IndyCar in future.
“We have some MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with some people that are confidential but we are talking to several sanctioning bodies. We will have some events in 2023 and have got what I consider to be a pretty major event in 2024 as well.
“We should have the club track up and running early next year, and then the amenities will come on over time; and then the grand prix track will be 2024 — which is what the big event will be on. We’re shooting for a FIM level one on the GP track — which can host anything motorcycles — and a FIA level two on that, as well as a FIA level two on the Club track.”
At this stage, there are no plans to make the Tilke Engineers & Architects-designed venue F1-ready, although Bittle says he believes the overall standard would make such a development feasible in future.
“I don’t think that Knoxville has the hospitality for Formula 1. I think there’s always the potential there to attract the big series, but I think it’s going to take some time for us to get hospitality on-site. We’re going to have at least a four-star hotel and some other hotels on-site. Once those get built I think we can start getting the big boys to look at us.
“FIA level two can host IndyCar, and I think eventually we could be a level one track, we’re just not going to do that on the front end. If we had to go back and do some modifications… Because the FIM level one is a pretty stringent requirement, but I think the FIA level one could be got in the future just with doing some upgrades.”
With the ground-breaking ceremony coming just days after the record-breaking United States Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, Bittle adds that the timing is perfect for capitalizing on an F1-led explosion in terms of interest in racing in America.
“I think motorsports is booming in the United States and I think everyone is aware of that, so it’s not as difficult as it would have been a few years ago, that’s for sure. I think ‘Drive to Survive’ brought more women into motorsports and that’s the best thing you could have ever done, so it’s helped tremendously. We’re in the membership stages now and we’ve got people joining the club who have never even been on a track, but have found they love motorsport so much.”