Posted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Posted on Thu, Mar. 09, 2006
Couple plans Formula One-style track in Decatur
By SANDRA BAKER
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
A Southlake couple has purchased 441 acres near Decatur in rural Wise County where they are initially investing $3.5 million to build a Formula One-style auto road course that could be ready by September.
David and Linda Cook said they expect the course, about an hour north of downtown Fort Worth, to be certified this year by the sport’s toughest standards established by its governing body, Formula One racing, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, based in Paris.
The track will also meet Sports Car Club of America and Grand-Am standards, making it suitable for road cars, motorbikes, super bikes, and vintage and legend series cars, the couple said. The track will be available to clubs, such as the Ferrari Club of America and Porsche Club of America, as well as offer private memberships, the couple said.
If it receives the FIA certification, it would be one of only a few tracks in the United States to have the rating. The couple also hope to be far enough along in the track’s development to host international races by 2008, as well as other major, sanctioned races for professionals and amateurs.
The development is being called Eagles Canyon Motorsports Park. It is in eastern Wise County, near the Wise-Denton county line, off Farm Roads 51 and 455.
The couple, who have an extensive background in auto racing, said they expect the development to draw car and racing enthusiasts from throughout North Texas and across the country. The speedway could spur commercial development nearby.
“It’s definitely going to impact the environment economically,” said Linda Cook, who has been racing since 2001 and was the first woman to enter the Canada Grand Prix Ferrari Challenge in 2004. “This is a serious undertaking.”
David Cook, a native of England, came to the United States as a radar engineer with General Dynamics in the 1960s. An entrepreneur, he has owned Sonaca MNF, the largest producer of wing panels for regional and business jets. His family has been involved in the aviation industry since 1917. He has been involved in motor racing since the 1970s, once competing in rallies in England.
Wise County officials expect the track to increase the number of people traveling to the area, particularly on weekends, County Judge Dick Chase said. That would increase sales tax revenue for many of the surrounding cities with hotel rooms to rent and restaurants to serve the visitors, he said.
“It’s a good addition. I don’t see this as a detriment,” Chase said. “It’s something that could grow over the years.”
Bulldozers have been out scraping the path for a 2.5-mile racecourse. After additional engineering is completed, asphalt will be put down in the coming months, the Cooks said. The track will eventually have a clubhouse and tower, as well as spectator seating at various spots around the track.
The track is north of Texas Motor Speedway, which features NASCAR races, as well as road-course-style events. Formula One cars have one seat, an open cockpit and travel at speeds of about 200 mph. Drivers race on tracks that features twists, right- and left-hand turns and switchback curves. NASCAR racers have traditional auto bodies and drivers race on an oval track with only left-hand turns.
It took the Cook’s more than two years to find the right topography and enough hills and valleys to replicate a European countryside, where Formula One racing has been the motor sport of choice for decades.
“There’s a lot of flatland in Texas and in the northern part of the state,” David Cook said.
The land has elevations of 70 feet in some parts, which will allow spectators to see to the far side of the course.
“The beauty of this is the piece of land,” Linda Cook said.
Norman Lindley, a Fort Worth real-estate broker, said the couple wanted to be near the area where Interstates 35W and 35E meet, making the track accessible from Fort Worth and Dallas. They bought the land from Gene and Mary Niblett in Denton.
Steve Watkins, a real-estate broker with Scott Brown Commercial in Denton who races Porsches as a member of the area chapter of the Porsche Club of America, said the new track will be a good alternative for car enthusiasts and clubs that mainly drive locally at the MotorSport Ranch in Cresson.
“North Texas is a huge market and we have only one place to do this right now,” Watkins said. “It will be a huge draw. There are a lot of elevation changes, and every change makes the course more challenging and more exciting for the drivers.”
Rob Lay, a Southlake resident and amateur Ferrari racer for the past five years, said it will be good to have a professional-level track. He said other developers have planned tracks for the area in the past several years, but they’ve never able to complete their projects.
“I really hope it’s successful,” Lay said. “I’m a huge Formula One fan.”
Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, said that the more likely use for the course is for club-car enthusiasts.
“You’re talking about they guy down the street that has a sports car and likes to drive fast,” Gossage said Thursday from Las Vegas, where he is attending a NASCAR race. “They are participant-driven races, rather than spectator-driven.”
Texas Motor Speedway has an infield road course that is used about 150 times a year for sports car-style racing. The course has four variations, with the longest being 2.3 miles. It incorporates the racing oval, but it also includes an area on the interior of the track.
Formula One traces its roots to the European Grand Prix of the 1920s and 1930s, but the first Formula One race was held in 1950.
One race on the 2006 world championship series is in July in Indianapolis.
“Texas is a great place to do a track,” David Cook said. “You’ve got good weather year-round. It’s a good location. Texas has a lot of energy. People are progressive here.”
Sandra Baker, (817) 390-7727