A Tour of Palm Beach International Raceway
As the newest addition to the Formula D tour, Palm Beach International Raceway is not a track that is well known to lot of people in the drifting world. Even among the big tracks in Florida it’s always overshadowed by Sebring and Daytona. Palm Beach does have its history though, albiet a frustrating one.
This track is somewhat unique in that the front and back straight are side by side. they’re almost as close as the front straight is to pit lane. On the other side of the back straight is the drag strip, so there are four parallel pieces of track for most of the venue’s length. The track was built in 1964 and held its first event in 1965, which was a series of sports car races.
Formula D runs in the Turn 1-2 chicane complex. In 2011, FD’s first year at the track, they ran in the normal direction, but last year they ran counter course with an S-section in the open paved area. They planned to run counter course in 2011 as well, but since it was a new track to the series, there were some safety concerns for that configuration and not enough time to address them.
Formula D uses Turns 3 and 3A as the grid and Turn 4 as the hot pits. Almost everyone we talk to thinks this section plus Turn 5 would be way better for drifting than the Turn 1-2 complex. It would be a lot harder to set up bleachers for, but I don’t know if that’s the reason FD doesn’t use it.
Here’s a name you should know: Alex Ullman. In 1950 he came up with the idea to run an endurance race at the decommissioned WWII-era United States Army Air Forces training base at Sebring. That race of course grew into the 12 hours of Sebring, and 16 years later in 1965 Ullman wanted to move this massive event to PBIR. He couldn’t reach an agreement on an expansion/upgrade deal with the track, though, and the plan fell through.
The furthest section of the track is the Turn 6-7-8 esses.
A swampy moat circles the whole track, but its especially jungly behind the esses. There are gators in the moat, and everyone has seen them. The track has been host to many rock concerts since it was opened, with one featuring the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, and Jefferson Airplane in 1969 being especially controversial. A Led Zeppelin concert was planned for 1975 but it was cancelled because too many people were expected to come (what kind of excuse is that?). In 1987 a circus was scheduled to perform at the track but that deal was cancelled at the last minute.
Turn 8 leads onto the back straight, which is 3000 feet long and has a wide section to accommodate an optional chicane. In 1981 Dick Moroso of Moroso Racing Parts fame bought the track and renamed it Moroso Motorsports Park. He upgraded the track and facilities and began hosting regional and national SCCA races, including Trans Am.
The track surface is seashell asphalt. Awesome.
Oh, here’s a gator. By the way, that’s not supposed to be a pond. It’s usually just soggy grass but it had been raining for the past several days.
Not all the wildlife is easily visible. Fire ants are abundant and best found with bare feet.
In 2008 a group of local enthusiasts bought the track from the Moroso family and changed the name back to PBIR. The track was rebuilt and much of the rest of the facility was upgraded or redone. At the end of the back straight is the Turn 9-10-11 complex and that gets you back onto the front straight to do it all over again.
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