In 2013, when tech entrepreneur and devoted motorhead Dan Erickson first began looking for land to build a private race track, his goal was creating an affordable venue for young racers who wanted and needed to practice. As a professional sports car and formula car driver he understood the irreplaceable value of track time toward improving one’s skills.
And yes, he also wanted his own track that wasn’t three to six or more hours away; one where he could explore the limits of his own high-performance street and for-competition-use-only cars.
But most of all he wanted a place where he and interested others could become better drivers through practice, practice and more practice.
A long time Phoenix-based SCCA competitor, he realized such practice opportunities for the less-privileged were few and far between in Arizona; especially for a small team with a privateer budget, little-if-any sponsorship and running cars or motorcycles that tend to make a lot of noise.
When Dan met Pat Johnson, who had found the perfect site for his own, semi-similar project five years earlier (their chance meeting is a story in itself), they compared visions and decided to combine their talents.
The result is Attesa, an expansive motorsports entertainment destination now nearing final Pinal County Board of Supervisor’s approval, near Casa Grande, just off Interstate 8 about seven miles west of Interstate 10.
Dan’s first cocktail napkin idea was a road course on a few hundred acres, offering club memberships, weekend SCCA, Pro Auto, and NASA events and day rentals. There’s was only one problem.
“It didn’t pencil,” said Johnson, President of Attesa, former owner of Phoenix International Raceway, CPA, construction and development veteran and lifelong race fan. “Private race tracks are a risky business proposition, the investment is huge, and it takes just as much work and money to get it entitled as it does a residential, commercial or large scale multi-use community. Especially when you’re building on prime farmland, outside city limits, with no roads, no sewers and no infrastructure.”
“So, we’re building a master planned community from scratch, centered around racing, transportation design, research and development, and advanced technology.”
Erickson remains bullish on his prime directive. “I’m a racer,” he said, “I know the only place you can improve your skills is a race track. Simulators are better than nothing but they’re expensive. Parking lots with cones won’t teach you much about door to door racing. Track rental fees are off the charts. It’s almost a no-win situation for those aspiring to move up in the racing world. “
“You won’t get better at racing uphill and downhill on a track that’s flat,” he added. “You can’t get faster through different radius turns or improve braking and throttle and car balance unless you’re behind the wheel on a real road race circuit. Right now, track time is like gold. And the drivers who need it most can’t usually afford it. We’re going to fix that.”
Attesa is a four-square-mile real estate development with residential, industrial, retail and entertainment components. Its foundation is a motorsports technology core featuring three different road circuits, including a high-performance automobile brand center and instruction course, members club and a private neighborhood of upscale ‘Garage Majal’ multi-story casitas.
It will also have a 300+ room luxury hotel, convention center, solar plaza, shopping and dining and tourist attractions, plus an air park. Not to mention a motorhome park, camping and RV space and 40-acres of land that can host Coachella-style concerts, off-road and motocross racing, farmers markets, fairs and more.
“The primary circuit, as with all of the tracks, is below grade and surrounded by a 25-ft. berm,” said Erickson. “It will be mainly used as a proving ground for manufacturers, aftermarket providers and professional race teams. Those who set up shop at Attesa will have direct, through the gate priority track privileges. That business model pencils. It’s how we’ll be able to help the little guys get on track.”
Attesa’s two, 2.8-mile tracks, branding center circuits and driving school facility have been penned by England’s Apex Circuit Design, one of the world’s premier racetrack engineering companies. The primary circuit will include a 25,000-seat grandstand, approved garages, paddock and pit area; all built to meet the highest FIA and FIM automobile and motorcycle racing safety and sanctioning standards. It will feature a 70-ft. elevation change, numerous by-design passing zones and almost unlimited spectator views from the banked perimeter.
Available for action in various configurations, the main circuit will offer a high-speed layout to allow stock cars, formula cars, sports cars and bikes to reach top-gear maximum velocities, the only track in Arizona with that capability. The track will be modern-era fan friendly, with on-site Wi-Fi, plentiful and easily-accessible clean restrooms, and food and beverage and souvenir/retail stations outside the encompassing berm, where the conversational noise level will be far below any and all applicable sound limits.
The sound-attenuating berm will let Attesa’s main track to be unobtrusively operated 24/7/365, allowing for ample time for amateur and entry-level racing and practice above and beyond its test schedule.
“We want to let young drivers get a chance to hone their skills, on a safe, professionally run track that’s convenient and affordable,” said Johnson. “It’s important we do whatever we can to grow the sport and help develop new generations of racers.”
Education is another important facet to Attesa. Universities, community colleges and trade schools can teach and train within the motorsports technology core, establishing campus facilities with classrooms, laboratories and dormitories while providing students with on-site employment opportunities.
That’s a real positive as most racers, both young and older, now have as much an interest in why cars do what they do, as how much they love the thrill of competition and pushing the edge of the speed envelope. They have no choice. Smarter is faster.
“When you get right down to it racing is all about physics, engineering, car balance and the understanding of all those things — and then feeling it from the seat; through the steering wheel, the pedals, your arms and legs and butt, and how you’re literally a part of the car. You have to recognize and react to the feel, which can only come from familiarity. Drivers need track time. There is no substitute,” said Erickson.
“Education is key. You have to teach drivers how to apply all that knowledge. Yes, we’re going to have a first-rate driving school but we’re also going to have seminars, workshops and teaching events during amateur weekends.
“I love racing,” he added. “And I want anyone who feels the same, regardless of their finances, to have a chance at feeding that passion. Even if they never become the next Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt or Ayrton Senna, at least they’ll have the opportunity to give it their best shot.”