Dubai Autodrome crosses the finishing line at speed

Dubai Autodrome will host its first major event this week. Like the event, the project was fast-tracked and completed in less than two years. Construction Week visited the pit lane to see how the project progressed.

  • E-Mail
By  Colin Foreman Published  October 9, 2004

Dubai Autodrome crosses the finishing line at speed|~||~||~|Dubai Autodrome will host its first major event this week. Like the event, the project was fast-tracked and completed in less than two years. Construction Week visited the pit lane to see how the project progressed. Once the developers, Union Properties, had made the decision to build Dubai Autodrome a lot of time was spent looking for a design team with the credentials to do the job. This was not that easy as very few first class racing facilities have been built from scratch. The project managers, Edara, spent a lot of time scouring the world looking for a top class design team and by January 2003 had assembled a panel made up of HOK Sport and Venue as lead masterplanners and architects; Buro Happold as structural engineers; West Surrey Racing (WSR) as track designers; and WS Atkins as civil and electro mechanical engineers. Co-ordination was one of the most important aspects during the design stages, and it involved many trips to and from London where a lot of the design work was conducted. One thing that the design team tried to do was make best use of the existing topography for the track to minimise the amount of landscaping works required. Another aspect of the design was that it was conducted in tandem with FIA and FIM – especially the track - so that there were no problems getting approval from the two governing bodies. During the early stages of design for the structures, the architect came up with a concept dubbed “active balance”. Both the Grandstand and the Marketing and Management Buildings appear to lean to one side to represent the excitement of motor sport as if the car or motorbike is just on the point of losing traction. The design team also had to be mindful of a number of local requirements that had to be met. For example, the Burj Al Arab had to be visible to spectators sitting on the main grandstand. From the outset, the project management team aimed to develop a strategy that would enable work onsite to start as soon as possible, using the contracting capabilities available locally in Dubai. The eventual solution was to split the project into four separate packages. The first package was the enabling works, which required very little design input, but did require a significant amount of time on site. The second and third packages were the two main structures of the development, the Management and Marketing Building and the Grandstand, and in order to get the construction moving as quickly as possible they were tendered as design and build contracts. The final package, and perhaps the most significant, was the track itself, which couldn’t begin until the enabling works were complete. Unlike the two buildings, this package could not be design and build because of the strict guidelines that had to be met for the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Federation Internationale de’Motocyclisme (FIM) standards – the Formula 1 racing and MotoGP governing bodies. “The strategy worked very well because the design information could be issued and tendered to local contracting companies that were identified as capable of doing the type of work required. Obviously it wasn’t the same list for the track and the infrastructure as it was for the buildings,” says Steve Irvine, general manager, Edara. Although it was planned to go to four separate contractors, the four packages were split between two contractors. Al Futtaim Carilion was awarded the enabling works and track and infrastructure packages and Al Naboodah Laing O’Rourke won the packages for the construction of the Management and Marketing Building and the Grandstand. “It worked extremely well. The interfaces between the packages were very clear and the contractors came in and did a very good job. “I think one of the big successes of the project is that it was designed and packaged to suit the capabilities of the better contractors who then came in and performed very well,” says Irvine. The first package to start was the enabling package, which began in June 2003. Once complete, the track and infrastructure package was ready to start the very next day – exactly how it was planned. Work on the structures began in October 2003. The 225 m long and 32 m high Grandstand was largely fabricated offsite and erected onsite. Bone Steel in Scotland fabricated the 2500 t of steel elements before they were shipped in one single consignment to Dubai in March this year. Precast concrete was used for the slabs and stepping, which, like the steel, was cast offsite by a company in Abu Dhabi and was erected onsite. “Precast was used to improve speed by minimising the amount of work needed on site. Quality control was also improved by manufacturing off site,” says Zuhdi Alrai, senior project manager, Edara. Altogether the construction of the Grandstand took 11 months, and includes two tiers with 7 000 seats and nine hospitality boxes on top. The Marketing and Management Building was on a slightly more accelerated programme and was finished in July 2004. This gave the interior fit-out contractors the opportunity to start work early so that the building could be operational by the start of the racing season in October. The Grandstand occupies the highest area of the development so spectators are able to see as much of the track as possible. This was an important issue during the planning stages as the design team tried to create a track that would be exciting for the drivers and riders and also exciting for the spectators. “Depending on where you are sitting you can see from 50% of the track to 90% of the track. There are a number of good overtaking opportunities as well so it’s exciting for drivers, riders and spectators,” says Irvine. For the track itself it was very much like standard highway construction. “Construction of the track was exactly the same as regular highway construction, apart from the last layer of asphalt. The last had a number of polymers added to the mix to improve the performance of the asphalt. The loads that a racetrack is subjected to are different to a standard road. Instead of downward forces exerted by trucks and heavy traffic, a racetrack needs take the sideways loads into account as the cars and motorbikes speed round corners, accelerating and braking,” says Alrai. The FIA and FIM had very strict guidelines. The tolerances had to be very good and could only deviate by +/- 3 mm over a 4 m stretch of track,” he adds. Exacting standards such as these were met throughout the project right from the early design stages right through to the actual construction as the project was always meant to be a world-class facility capable of holding the very best events that motor sport has to offer. “Building a race track creates an excitement right from the very start. This excitement meant that everyone was keen to be involved in the project and proud of what they were delivering,” says Irvine. The fact that virgin desert off Emirates Road was turned into an international racetrack within one year reflects the enthusiasm that the project generated. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code