ASPHALT SURFACING on the brand new Rockingham Motor Speedway (RMS) track in Northamptonshire is under scrutiny after puddles wrecked the first ever UK Champ Car race last weekend.
Investigators from design and build contractor Morrison Construction and surfacing specialists Colas are trying to find out why, despite no rainfall, small pockets of water gathered on the track making it impossible for drivers to practice or race at their full 350km/h speed.
To the embarrassment of the organisers, the first two days of the three day British leg of the CART FedEx Championship had to be cancelled. The race start was then delayed four hours, and the distance cut by a third after light began to fade.
The track was designed and built by Morrison with Colas designing and laying the pavement on the 2.4km banked oval and traditional 'in-field' section (NCE 8 March). To reduce joints the entire oval was laid as four seamless strips. An open texture asphalt was used to cut spray.
The open-texture asphalt lets surface water seep through to be gradually evaporated back into the atmosphere.
It is thought that heavy rainfall over the last two weeks was absorbed by the surface as expected, but the cold and still conditions which followed slowed the drying process.
CART officials demand a perfectly clean, dry and predictable track surface before allowing cars to practise or race. However, despite a huge effort to blow water off the track using six track driers - jet engines mounted on trailers - Rockingham struggled to achieve the perfect conditions.
The track finally dried after Morrison sank 60, 5m deep boreholes to allow water held in the asphalt to drain through a 230mm thick layer of cementitious lime stabilised clay and the heavily surcharged embankments.
Morrison, which has a 15% stake in Rockingham Motor Speedway is now working with Colas to develop a permanent solution to the problem.
'We are still investigating the cause, but we know that it is not an unusual problem and not exclusive to Rockingham, ' said RMS spokesman Geoff Carter.
'You have to remember that this is the first track of its type to be built in the UK since Brooklands in 1907, and it was built from scratch in two years. We now have 12 months to sort the problems out.'