SEPTEMBER 8, 1997
Road Atlanta is go
AS we reported a month ago Don Panoz is planning to host the United States Grand Prix at Road Atlanta, starting in 1999 and running for a minimum of five years.
FIA circuit inspector Roland Bruynseraede visited Road Atlanta two months ago and discussed plans to upgrade the track to F1 standard. A three-phase development program has already begun to improve the run-off areas. The trackside facilities will also need to be overhauled but at the moment the circuit is concentrating on improving access to the track. The State of Georgia and the local authorities are studying a plan to build a four-lane road into the circuit from the nearby Interstate highway. There are plans for an air strip to be built and for a helipad.
The area around the circuit has developed considerably in recent years and there are now 20,000 hotel rooms within 20 minutes of the circuit, 420 of them being next door at Panoz's hotel/vineyard complex called Chateau Elan. Another 160 rooms are being added in the next few months.
While Panoz is sufficiently wealthy not to have to worry about raising money for the project, he and his team at Road Atlanta are hoping that some of Atlanta's big businesses will get involved in the race. The biggest of these are Coca-Cola and the courier firm UPS.
We hear that there are still attempts going on in Las Vegas to organize a race there and it is quite possible that there could one day be two United States Grands Prix, as there used to be in the late 1970s and early 1980s.