Phoenix made its racing mark with oval racing but road racing, specifically sports car racing, has an equally strong heritage. Our plan is to establish Attesa as it’s new, ‘forever home’ in Arizona.
More than 30 years ago, when I was a CPA in Casa Grande, I proposed a partnership real estate acquisition with a local cotton farmer/client named Buddy Jobe. He agreed, we bought and ran Phoenix International Raceway together for a few years and then I moved on to development, residential and industrial construction, entitlements and even nightclub management.
But I became hooked on racing. All kinds of racing.
Today I am part of the team building Attesa, a 2500+ acre advanced technology/transportation design community near Casa Grande, about 45 minutes south of Phoenix. Our plans feature a 2.8-mile FIA 2 and FIM A -approved circuit that will primarily be used for testing. We’re going to be the American Southwest’s premier proving grounds for carmakers, component/systems manufacturers, race teams, tire companies and other that eventually require real world, beyond computer modeling, ‘where the rubber meets the road’ on-track testing.
But we also plan to host event weekends, because road racing needs to come back to Arizona.
We want to create the West’s best and newest home for local, national and international sports car racing series, featuring everything from prototypes, GT cars and Trans Am sedans to NASCAR and ARCA stock cars.
Sports car racing has a heritage here. PIR was originally developed as a 2.5-mile road course with a drag strip, funded and built by two parties of good family fortune who wanted to race their sports cars on a real, dedicated racing circuit instead of abandoned air strips and parking lots. With the closing of the dirt track at the fairgrounds, the principals were persuaded to include a paved one-mile oval in the configuration, compromised by a dogleg in the back straight, necessary for workable incorporation into the under-construction road course.
After we bought the track in the early 80’s the old road course was mainly used for testing by manufacturers but that ended after it got its first Cup race. In 1992 IMSA came to town to race on an 11-turn, 1.51-mile infield circuit that used more than half the oval. That event, the Checker Grand Prix, lasted two years. Both races were won by a Dan Gurney GTP Toyota, a prototype that still holds the lap record at Daytona.
From 2000 to 2006 a new, France family -supported sports car series called Grand American Road Racing ran the infield course at PIR. After they began hosting a second NASCAR weekend each spring the road circuit was sacrificed for more parking and RV space.
So after more than 40 years of pro sports car racing in Arizona, it was suddenly gone; with no return – or more specifically, no place to return to – on the horizon.
We’re going to fix that. And we like our timing.
It seems sports car racing in America is on the rise again. IMSA sanctions a half dozen touring series including one, the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, that’s thriving thanks to new prototypes, renewed manufacturer interest and an influx of famous teams and drivers.
Example: After being absent from full-time sports car racing since 2008 Team Penske is running a two-car, factory Acura prototype team in IMSA next year. Two of the drivers are former Indy 500 winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves.
And F1 driver Fernando Alonso, who shocked the world by racing at Indianapolis instead of Monaco this past May, is going to make his first-ever Rolex 24 at Daytona start next January. Because he wants to.
Besides IMSA there’s the Pirelli World Challenge and Trans Am, both strong and getting stronger. And SVRA, a series for historic and classic race cars once concentrated in the southeast, is expanding to venues all over the country.
They need a place to race in Arizona. Which is just what we had in mind when we contracted Apex Circuit Design (U.K.) to create our tracks; they had to b e great for testing but even better (70-ft. elevation change, plenty of passing zones, whole-track spectator viewing) for racing.
We’re confident that will be the case. And hopefully, 36-40 months from now, sports car racing will return to the Great Southwest and find it’s ‘forever home’ at Attesa.