x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Work speeding ahead on island F1 racetrack

From little more than a dusty outcrop of Abu Dhabi 18 months ago, Yas Island has become a hive of activity.

An artist's rendering shows the same location as it is planned to appear upon the track's completion.
An artist's rendering shows the same location as it is planned to appear upon the track's completion.

ABU DHABI // The Yas Marina Circuit may still be far too bumpy to accommodate cars driving upwards of 300 kph, but at long last it looks like a racetrack. From little more than a dusty outcrop of Abu Dhabi 18 months ago, Yas Island has become a hive of activity. Cranes are scattered in all directions. One of the most ambitious building projects in the country is taking shape at an astonishing pace, with most of the circuit now starting to match renderings the race organisers released to the public just two months ago.

Progress is on track, according to the organisers Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM), with at least 4,000 workers on the circuit at any one time and a sign on the entrance to the island keeping a running tally of man-hours worked. So far, there have been more than 47,250,000. Having previously kept some images and details of the track under close wraps, ADMM showed off most of the circuit's facilities for the first time yesterday.

The centrepiece is a hotel the cars will travel through, giving guests an unprecedented close-up of a grand prix. Both hotel buildings are at their final height, just missing the layer of LED panels that will change colour and the distinctive bridge that will link them, passing over the track. Bordering the hotels is the marina, deep enough to host the biggest super yachts and give their owners some of the best views of the track. The marina is now almost complete, with work on channelling water from the sea to begin in the first quarter of next year.

The narrow divide between Yas Island and the mainland has also been dredged deeper to allow even the largest boats to travel to the marina, with the resulting earth used to landscape the circuit and raise the level of the land on key sections. One of the highest points of the track will be the exit of the pit lane. In a first for an F1 circuit, the lane will begin in an inclined tunnel going underneath the track and finish on top of a hill, where it joins the track.

With only a few high points in the centre, most of the 50,000 spectators will have clear views of the race action. All seats look over at least 40 per cent of the circuit. Workers were busy yesterday putting in seating on the grandstands. One sweeping V-shaped grandstand will seat 11,000 people, with plans for it to also serve as a self-contained arena for concerts and other events. Another grandstand, at the end of a 1.3km straight stretch, will include a runoff area for cars, in case of spinning off or accidents, underneath the seating area.

Tickets for the first race, on Nov 1 next year, are expected to go on sale in January. Visit www.yasmarinacircuit.ae to register for more ticket information as it becomes available. @Email:rhughes@thenational.ae