Herbert drive to put Rockingham on map

Awe-inspiring power of Champ Cars can rival Formula One's attraction

A 230mph Indycar head-to-head between Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell is likely to take place next year on the first banked oval circuit to be built in Britain since Brooklands closed in 1939. Rockingham Motor Speedway, which is under construction at Corby in Northamptonshire, has been promised a round of the Cart World Series, which is based in the United States but takes in races in Canada, Brazil, Australia and Japan and has been looking for a foothold in Europe.

A 230mph Indycar head-to-head between Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell is likely to take place next year on the first banked oval circuit to be built in Britain since Brooklands closed in 1939. Rockingham Motor Speedway, which is under construction at Corby in Northamptonshire, has been promised a round of the Cart World Series, which is based in the United States but takes in races in Canada, Brazil, Australia and Japan and has been looking for a foothold in Europe.

The race on 22 September 2001 will be the first opportunity to see what are now called ChampCars since a forlorn attempt was made to encourage British interest in Indycar racing by having events at Brands Hatch and Silverstone in 1978, when bad weather left the cars underperforming and the small crowds unconvinced.

In the unlikely event of the British Grand Prix being struck from the calendar, Formula One's hold on the British motorsport public is never likely to be attracted away, but the awe-inspiring power of the ChampCars will clearly draw large numbers to a unique multi-motorsports complex which will eventually have sufficient spectator capacity to rival Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

A bonus for the new circuit is that the highly popular British Formula One driver Herbert has just returned from watching ChampCar racing in the United States and says he has hopes of competing in next year's series. Blundell has already established himself in Indycar racing and a Scot, Dario Franchitti, is a challenger for this season's championship. Nigel Mansell wasthe first British driver to make a consistent transition from Formula One.

The irony of the series has always been that the bulk of the turbocharged, eight-cylinder, methanol-fuelled cars, which accelerate from 0 to 100mph in just over four seconds, are made by the Lola and Reynard companies in Britain. At the moment there is no opportunity to test them on a genuine banked racetrack. The close proximity of Rockingham to the Midlands means that manufacturers will ensure that the new circuit is well used, although some local objections have been raised by CARS (Campaign Against Rockingham Speedway).

The complaints are largely countered by the fact that the "brownfield" site, which was once used for quarrying ironstone for the now defunct steel industry, is unsuitable for house building and that local unemployment is high. Corby Council have been supportive. Rockingham employs over three hundred workers on site, and when open the circuit will require a large number of part-time helpers.

A frequently heard European criticism of what in the States is known as the FedEx ChampCar World Series, held under the auspices of Cart (Championship Automobile Racing Teams Inc), is that it is processional. However, the first eight races of this season have seen eight different winners, and in any two-hour race the lead may change up to 50 times. Blundell is a converted enthusiast, not only as a driver but spectator. He said: "To see at close quarters the 26 cars competing in quality motorsport is fantastic. It's a bit like watching Formula Ford with nine-hundred horsepower engines. I think the average speeds at Rockingham will be between 215 and 225mph." Top speeds of over 250mph are achieved on some American circuits.

Rockingham was first mooted nine years ago and was six years in the design, planning and fundraising stage. Work on the 300-acre site began in May. Opposition on the grounds of noise is difficult to sustain since the 1.5-mile main oval track, with a kart track, small oval and road course within, will act as a sound baffle, which is not the case at most of Britain's old circuits, particularly those, such asSilverstone, which are based on Second World War airfields.

By completion, over two million tonnes of earth will have been moved. The main grandstand will seat 11,000 and there will be additional seating for 30,000. Peter Davies, managing director of Rockingham, said: "America's premier motorracing series will be a huge spectacle, comparable but different from Formula One. The fact that we are to host an event of the magnitude of the FedEx ChampCar World Series in our debut year is astounding, a real boost, not just to our investors and management team but to Corby and Great Britain."

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy