The impetus for the works was initiated by FIM Safety Officers, who then in conjunction with GP Corp detailed significant changes that were required for Phillip Island to retain its FIM Grade A licence.
There are no changes to the racing lines or the flow of the circuit, but extensive works are now being undertaken, as part of a six-week project, extending run off areas and installing concrete aprons to aid rider safety.
New walls are being installed further back through turn 11 and 12 to also improve spectator safety.
MCNews.com.au spoke to Matthew Walton, General Manager of Design and Construction for the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, to get the full run down on the works program.
Matthew Walton Interview
General Manager of Design and Construction
Australian Grand Prix Corporation
Trevor Hedge: Take us for a run around the circuit works please Matt, I believe at turn one there’s a lot more bitumen run off now, and a new asphalt verge on the outside of turn two, and I think the wall behind turn one has been changed also?
Matthew Walton: “Yes, that’s correct, if you’re heading into turn one, one of the key changes requested by the FIM was to extend the asphalt run-off, as well as extend on the gravel footprint. So when you get a plan you’ll see it extends further south, that’s where the air fence was. It also extends further to the west which is sort of closer to the gate one entry roadway, from that perspective. That extends right towards turn two, so with the gravel extension we’ve also installed Armco barrier and there will be tyre bundles in front of that with conveyer belt as well. So that is one of the major pieces of work we’re doing to improve safety around that part of the circuit.”
Trev: Can you explain what you mean by conveyer belt?
Walton: “It’s thick rubber lining as such, industrial conveyer belt that’s used to take out the rounded edges of the tyres to provide a seamless flat surface, that sits in front of the tyre bundles to give it that added level of protection if a bike was to come off the circuit.”
Trev: I believe somewhere along that wall after the turn one run-off area there is now better access points so the flaggies can now get through and retrieve bikes, is that correct?
Walton: “That’s correct, there will be two. The Armco barrier, if you can visualise what it used to be, what we’ve done is pushed the barrier line forward of the marshal roadway, so that the marshal roadway can be used during track activity, so that’s a key change, because obviously prior to that, it was unsafe for marshals or officials to be out there whilst the circuit was hot. So the barrier line has been pushed forward, that maintains the access roadway, and then that tapers back towards the marshal posts in turn two and within that barrier line there’s two openings for access for the officials.”
Trev: On the inside and exit of turn two and sort of around the latter half of southern loop then, there’s no real change of that part?
Walton: “There is just effectively an extension of the asphalt coming in, the exit of turn one, by about two metres in front of the marshal post at turn two, on riders left and then it’s sort of feeds back into the entry of turn two just to allow the riders to come off wide and then feed back in if they do go wide. That’s probably the key change there, and then on rider’s right, there is also an concrete verge that’s been installed for the same purpose, just to mitigate any faults from the riders. So part of the works going on there is also the tapering of the grass to ensure it remains level with the rest of the circuit. “
Trev: If we move down to turn three, I believe there was some works done around there as well?
Walton: “Turn three exit we have another concrete verge, and that’s the same as in turn two.”
Trev: I see they are basically on the exit of turn three if you drift wide, we’ve got another two metres of concrete there?
Walton: “That’s correct, and will be painted black.”
Trev: The wall there and run off area between turn three exit and the wall, is there any sort of changes happening there?
Walton: “No change there other than the widening, which is approximately 230 metres worth of verge extension (see purple shaded area above), turn two is 360 metres worth of extension, and then the extension is actually turn six too. Turn six is another 170 metres worth of concrete verge that’s being installed on the rider’s right. To allow those bikes to go off wide if they need to, and then as we feed around to turn eight.”
Trev: The place you definitely don’t want to crash at Phillip Island, generally fast and ugly through the rocks there at Hayshed.
Walton: “On rider’s left there is now 170 metres worth of concrete verge, on turn eight. Now separate to our piece that we’re doing for the circuit, Phillip Island is also doing some Armco barriers on the right of turn eight. But I’m not in the scope of that project.”
Trev: Then we go up around Lukey Heights, turn nine, there seems to be a very long stretch of extra two metres of concrete verge on rider’s right.
Walton: “Spot on, we have 310 metres worth of concrete verge extending from the entry of turn nine right through to almost the exit. Just before the exit on rider’s right.”
Trev: That is a lot there, and has there been any changes that you guys have been responsible for, in the spectator area at turn 10? I thought I’d seen some changes to the elevation of the ground there, have you got any knowledge of that?
Walton: “Nothing there other than the work that’s been undertaken the the verges, and just the levelling or tapering of the gravel trap to feed into that verge. On rider’s right at turn nine. There’s no other works in turn 10 other than what we did back in 2019 I think it was, from memory. Where we extended the concrete apron through the bend there, if you recall.”
Trev: So we’re picking up gears now, and going round turn 11 and then really working up speed in the running towards turn 12, I see on this map here we’ve got a new 2 m concrete verge on the exit of 11 (purple shaded area on image below), and pretty much all the way around the outside of turn 11, towards 12 and then there’s a light blue shading and then a sort of purple shading, can you take us through the changes there? I believe the fence has moved back a little?
Walton: “This is like turn one it’s a substantial piece of work, this is an extension to turn 11 and 12 run-off, and there’s a combination of elements modified in this area, including the extension of the gravel trap which is the pink.”
Trev: The light blue is the existing and the pink/purple is where we’ve extended it to now?
Walton: “Spot on, at the rider’s right as you come into the entry of turn 11 there is the concrete verge (slim purple shaded area), which goes to about the halfway point, but the fundamental changes that sort of extends from 11 through to 12, is the installation of the concrete barriers, tyre bundles, conveyer belt and debris fencing, and obviously the purpose of the debris fencing is to protect both the rider and the spectator in this location. Given that speeds at which the bikes are going around this particular turn.”
Trev: Have you got any figures with how far the actual fence has been moved back as well?
Walton: “So it’s approximately 205 fence panels going in, currently being fabricated at the moment, it’ll happen in two stages. Because of the fabrication timeframe, we’re only able to achieve about 60 metres worth of fencing prior to work being complete at the end of this month. Which closes the end of this month, then we’ll continue to fabricate and install fencing prior to MotoGP, so there’s that. There’s the equivalent number of concrete barriers, to support those debris fence panels, and both those obviously FIA/FIM homologated assets that are pre-existing, the barriers are brand new, the fence panels are brand new, and the concrete barriers come from the F1 race track. The tyre bundles and conveyer belt are also from the F1 racetrack. So we’ve been able to apply those assets to support this build, which is good because Formula 1 has a Grade 1 FIA licence, similar to the FIM Grade A regulations for MotoGP.”
Trev: So I guess where we are at the moment, there’s no actual change to the track, as we ride it, the changes all concern run off areas, so this is not going to effect lap records or lap times, cornering lines, it’s just simply improved safety for riders that run wide.
Walton: “That’s absolutely right, the only purpose of it is to improve the safety of the circuit, and one of the other final fundamental change is the 325 metres worth of concrete apron on riders left as you go into the entry of turn one. So that is substantial. That was off the back of the report saying a rider went wide going down the grass verge, and you can imagine a bit like a bucking bull going through there, despite the verges being fairly smooth, obviously concrete is better than grass, so it just prevents the rider getting thrown off their bike there at speed.
“So that’s the reason why that got installed in that location, for that purpose, because it did actually occur a few years back, where a rider was thrown from their bike in turn one, because they went wide. So that was that one. That’s the core extent of the works over a six week period. There’s over 300 tonnes of additional gravel that we’re installing in both turn one and turn 11 and 12, there’s remarkably a huge amount of soil that’s also been removed, up to 25,000 cubic metres as an estimate. You sort of put that into perspective when you stand there and see the soil piled up you say where did this all come from?
“You start to realise particularly at 11 and 12 which is an obvious change, you stand there and go, bloody hell you don’t even recognise the way it was previously. It’s a lot deeper, a huge extension of run off now. We’ve included a marshal roadway along the back there too, which is an improvement, and also access trail for spectators behind that as well, so that will obviously improve things for the event, which will be of benefit. So it’s a grand piece of work, and the soil we’ve removed, the majority of it, hopefully all of it, will be repurposed around the venue to improve the overall venue in various locations, including parking, viewing mounds, still to be determined, but just in areas where we’d like to improve on the build for the MotoGP event. The circuit has been really accommodating on that front, we’ve come up with a number of solutions to improve the overlay across the venue.”
Trev: This will be a curly one for you, and I presume you are will not be able to comment one way or the other…. but I’ve heard rumours the track is potentially scheduled to be resurfaced in 2024, followed by new pit garages and infrastructure works coming in 2025…?
Walton: “Probably unable to report either way, there’s a lot of work to be done as to whether those things actually occur or not. They are certainly things that are being considered, but nothing has been formalised on those fronts.”
Trev: Thanks for going through that with us so thoroughly, I will see you at MotoGP!
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