The process of selecting a design team to create the new Racing Spirit circuit in Sri Racha kicked off last week as the tender process commenced with a full inspection of the site by a number of interested design agencies.

Racing Spirit recently put out an official invitation to bid for the project, which envisions a brand new circuit developed to meet FIA Grade 2 and FIM Grade A homologation being built on a recently acquired 990 rai (394 acre) site in the Sri Racha area.

mark hughes copyWith TSS President Sontaya Kunplome demanding the circuit is positioned at the hub of Thailand’s motorsport ‘heartland’, the Bangkok-Chonburi-Pattaya corridor, after exhaustive consideration of a number of prospective sites, this one was chosen due to its excellent central location, ideal topography and geological structures (which notably includes elevation changes of 40 m) as well as the added benefit of the idyllic countryside that surrounds it. Most importantly in the brief was its geographical location that will allow it to reflect and serve the local community, returning real value, generating jobs and non-core business income, as well as national and international prestige to the area. The site, surrounded by vegetation filled hills, undulates and includes a reservoir as well as other natural features that will be enhanced and incorporated into the final layout.

Six design agencies responded to the tender and five of them took up last week’s invitation to visit the site, namely Apex, Driven International, Tilke, Dromo and Populous. Each is a global leader in international racetrack design and execution and each bring a different style and approach, meaning the final proposals should offer as wide an interpretation of the given brief as possible.

Racing Spirit’s senior management team, working in conjunction with Mark Hughes of MRK 1 Consulting, Bahrain, who is a specialist in this field, is conducting the tender process.

The five design agencies have also been supplied with the results of extensive land surveys carried out recently on behalf of Racing Spirit, including full geological test results and other relevant information. All the teams reported their outline plans were already well advanced by the time of the site survey.

Racing Spirit management were delighted that all the design teams responded very enthusiastically after examining the site and believe there is huge scope to build a racetrack that can become global recognised for its challenges, unique footprint and excellence, providing both prestige and revenue for the local community. The design teams now have three weeks to submit their final plans before the April 21 deadline. Racing Spirit in conjunction with Khun Mark will then evaluate and choose a winning design with the process expected to be concluded by the end of June.

At the same time a tender for the construction has also been put out and this process will run in parallel with the design tender. Actual construction of the circuit is planned to start in October.

Guiding the Design Tender

The tendering process for the new racetrack is being overseen by Mark Hughes of MRK 1 Consulting; he worked in conjunction with Racing Spirit to define the terms of the tender that was recently offered and he will review the submitted bids before presenting them to senior management. Then a winning offer will be chosen, the final decision resting with TSS President Sontaya Kunplome.

During the site inspection by prospective designers last week Khun Mark explained the process is being conducted to the very highest international standards; it’s going to be exhaustive and they will be able to find the best bid from every aspect. “The tendering process was very structured,” he says.

“A lot of aspiring track owners’ don’t go through quite such a structured tendering process,” he continues. “They might pick a track designer from their reputation or from their previous projects. But what we’ve done here is have a very open tender and we’ve targeted the top track designers in the world to come and visit the site and give us a concept proposal.”

The ambitions for the track are sky-high; Racing Spirit wants the designers to challenge themselves and the winning party to be actively involved in the wider development of the track and complex. “The tender is broken down into a number of different parts and the track designers will be very actively involved, very specifically in the track itself, but also in designing the specifications for the other facilities on the site,” says Khun Mark.

Certainly in Thailand this is an exciting and eagerly awaited racetrack project, but it appears that globally too it’s already grabbed attention. “The tender has been very well received, we’ve had a 100% response from everyone we’ve issued it to, they have all come back and said they will submit a proposal to us and the benefit to Racing Spirit is that they will get some really good quality bids, they’ll get a lot of ideas,” he says.

The site was chosen after an exhaustive search for an optimal location in terms of transport links as well as featuring the right topography and atmosphere and the feedback during the site inspection was all highly positive. “The track designers have all come to visit the site, which is fantastic,” says Khun Mark. “They’re very impressed with the site and we’re expecting the quality of the proposals that come back to be very, very high.”

With the site visit completed we now begin to move into the closing stages of the bidding process. Khun Mark says they’re pressing ahead and the strategy calls for actual construction of the track to start in around six month’s time, an ambitious but feasible timetable.

“In terms of timeframe, each of the designers has been asked to return their submission by April 21st,” he says. “I will then do a complete technical review of all of the submissions and the plan is to award a contract by about mid June and then it’s full steam ahead. We want to start construction around October this year so in parallel to the design RFP [Request For Proposal] we will also be doing a tender for the construction company at the same time to save some time in the process.”

Ben Potter

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