Knoxville, Tennessee. Construction has started on a brand-new motorsports park that is “unlike any other venue in the world”, according to the circuit’s Partner and President Rusty Bittle. Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub will be a premium racing facility, combining both a 2.67-mile competition ‘Grand Prix’ track and a 3.50-mile ‘Club’ layout for track car owners. These two courses can be combined to create an undulating 5.9-mile, 34-turn circuit situated in beautiful, rolling Tennessee countryside.
A ground-breaking ceremony to mark the commencement of the circuit’s build was held in the company of local dignitaries and media at the Cumberland County venue on Wednesday, October 26th, 2022. Working with renowned Formula 1 circuit architects Tilke GmbH, the world’s newest motorsports facility is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024.
Flatrock Motorsports Park will become one of the premier motorsports venues in the world, attracting car enthusiasts to drive its challenging sequence of high-speed corners in addition to its stunning off-track amenities. They include a luxury restaurant and spa hotel, stylish garage villas (which club members can permanently own), winery, brewery, and premium clubhouse. The campus will also feature a CIK-grade karting circuit, a live music amphitheatre, Welcome Centre, and road safety training testing facility.
Situated in 773 acres of stunning countryside, Flatrock Motorsports Park is in close proximity to the famous Great Smoky Mountains — the most-visited national park in the US and near to the world-renowned Tail of the Dragon highway, with its 318 bends in 11 miles.
The site is easily accessible, located less than a minute off Interstate 40, and less than a day’s drive from 75 percent of the US population. For club members with private aircraft, Rockwood Municipal Airport is less than two miles away, while Knoxville’s commercial airport is less than an hour’s drive, approximately 30 miles away.
The visionary behind the project is real estate developer and car enthusiast Rusty Bittle who is realising his 20-year dream of creating a bespoke motorsports facility. In the future, Flatrock Motorsports Park is aiming to attract officially-sanctioned high-profile motorsport events such as IndyCar and already has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an international racing series.
The Flatrock layout has been designed to feature two main circuits. The Grand Prix track is 2.67-miles in length and includes a looping hairpin which is where the amphitheatre, stage and an estimated 15,000 seats will be situated. The Grand Prix layout also features a Race Control and Pit Building, Medical Centre and Paddock, in addition to spectator banks, temporary grandstands, car parking and camping areas.
The 3.50-mile Club track has an elevation change of 124ft and simulations of a GT3 car predict an average speed of 101mph. Its facilities include a premium members clubhouse and garages, pit building, fine-dining restaurant and spa, club villas and private lodges. The combined Club and Grand Prix layouts create the ‘Endurance’ track, stretching to 34 dynamic turns across 5.9-miles. Two smaller drift loops means that four different configurations of the track can be operational simultaneously.
“Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub will be unlike anything else in the United States, if not the world. It is absolutely unique. Nowhere else offers the combination of a competition race track next to club circuit for track day drivers,” says Rusty Bittle, Partner and President of Flatrock Motorsports Park. “The amenities we are providing differentiate our venue from any other race track. We will become an entertainment destination with our offerings that include a hotel with pool and spa, fine-dining restaurant, members’ clubhouse, karting circuit, winery, and brewery. Flatrock Motorsports Park will become one of the premium motorsport venues anywhere in the world.”
Partner and President
Flatrock Motorsports Park
Q. What was the inspiration behind creating Flatrock Motorsports Park?
RB: “I’ve been a motorsport and car enthusiast all my life and this is the culmination of a 20-year dream to create a venue like this. When I first started karting and then signed up to track days, I was aware that at all the circuits I went to, there was nothing else to do apart from just driving. So, I saw an opportunity for us to create something that was unique. The plan is to create a location where you can spend the weekend with your family at the track and enjoy the winery, the restaurant and spa and enjoy the off-track options as much as the on-track driving.
Post-Covid, there has been a paradigm shift as consumers have moved away from products and are more driven towards experiences. If you combine that with the fact motorsport is booming in the United States at the moment, which is partly down to the interest of Formula 1 through the Netflix Drive to Survive series, the result is that there is a surge in popularity for motorsport experiences.”
Q. Why have you chosen this particular area to create this new circuit?
RB: “We were originally looking at a site close to Oak Ridge, but for various reasons, we have moved to this bigger location, which is essentially twice the size of our original plan. We are far enough away from a metropolitan area so that noise is not an issue, but equally we are less than a mile from the Interstate highway, so it’s not difficult to access.
We’re 30 minutes from Knoxville, and about an hour and a half from Nashville in one direction and Bristol Motor Speedway in the other. There are a lot of car enthusiasts in this region of the United States, but there is no facility which is close by, so we are looking to fill that gap in the market. Plus, it’s an absolutely stunning piece of land and the scenery is amazing.”
Q. Tell us about the partnership with Tilke and the plans for the circuit?
RB: “Tilke are the number one circuit architects in the world and they were very excited about this project as I gave them just under 800 acres and told them they have free rein to create a track and motorsports park. That’s why the full length of the endurance track is 5.9-miles with 34 turns. But actually, what we are doing is creating two tracks. We have the Grand Prix layout that will be used for competitions and sanctioned racing, then we have the Club circuit for our car club members and for track days. What it means is that we’re effectively creating a COTA and a Barber next to each other. So, it’s absolutely unique, there is nothing else like this in the world.”
Q. It’s going to be called the ‘Grand Prix’ circuit and you have mentioned wanting to get international competition here, is a Formula 1 race going to happen one day?
RB: “I think everyone involved in the project would love to have a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but I think realistically the amenities around the local area would need to be developed, For example, I think you’d need a few more hotels to be able to attract Formula 1. But we have had some conversations with other international sanctioning bodies and there are some that we have under contract now. Some of those I can’t talk about, but we do have an MoU with a major sanctioning body and it would be amazing if we could make that happen. I think once everyone sees what we have built here then I think IndyCar might be interested in potentially racing on the Grand Prix circuit. I think once people see what we will create here, then they’ll realise how amazing it really is.”
Q. What other aspects of the park are you looking to develop? Are you having talks with any Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to use the venue as a proving ground?
RB: “When we had initial conversations back at Oak Ridge, we had conversations with some manufacturers and suppliers to OEMs. We have the support of the state of Tennessee and they would like to have more research and development projects locally. So, we have a lot of connections and we have great possibilities to open that avenue up to one day and have an industrial area on the campus somewhere in the future.”
Q. What about the local community, what initiatives have you in mind to engage with them?
RB: “It’s absolutely vital to us that we are part of the local community, so we have in mind a lot of ideas to be able to share with them. For example, we want to have car shows, cook-offs, a hot air balloon festival, firework events, and of course the amphitheatre and stage which can hold country music concerts or festivals. We want children and adults to come and rent karts and we’ve started to have discussions to bring officially-sanctioned CIK-level nationally-organised kart races to the track we have planned. But with our members clubhouse, our fine dining restaurant, pool and spa, boutique hotel, brewery and winery, walking and driving trails, luxury camping, three-bedroom private villas — we are creating amenities that will differentiate us from other facilities.”
Q. What are your timescales?
RB: “Our ground-breaking ceremony is taking place this week and we invited a number of dignitaries, including local and state congressmen and senators and it’s an opportunity for us to let people know about the construction project. Then our goal is to have the Grand Prix track open for late 2024. Perhaps the kart track and Welcome Centre could be open by next summer, but then our other amenities will develop over the next five years. Some things we’ll start earlier, for example, we’re pushing hard to get the hotel developed sooner but this week is just the beginning of a very exciting journey.”
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