The official announcement that New Jersey finally gets its own fist-pumping Formula One race in 2013 comes in just two hours. But I didn't want to wait. So last night I took my own "first drive" of the probable 3.1-mile road course in a Jaguar XKR convertible. This is it.
So, given that they haven't yet actually announced the track — actually, it'll be a road course — how did we know what it would look like? Easy. The idea of a Formula One road course in New Jersey has been thrown around for longer than a Jersey Shore rave. Most F1 pundits know that Bernie Ecclestone, the eccentric CEO of the sport, would love to have a race in the New York area. But then, last year, just as we'd heard that it had a real shot of happening, it seemed they lost their chance for a race to Austin, Texas.
But then, when all hope was lost, we heard that the idea reemerged a few months ago. So there's been lots of talk already about what the course would look like.
And all that talk — even as late as last month, as this FastLaneDaily video shows — centers on a course that winds its way through the not-so-sleepy and not-so-little New Jersey hamlets of Weehawken and West New York.
Given that, and an expressed desire to show off the Manhattan skyline in the background, the likely location speculated for the start of the race is along the wide expanses and parking lots offered by ferry-goers at the Avenue at Port Imperial. It's perfect because it gives you a Monza-length pit lane — and the parking would make for a perfect pit area.
It's also perfect because, as F1 blogger Joe Saward tells us:
"...most of the land [in the area] is owned by one man: Arthur Imperatore, an Italian-American businessman who made his fortune in the trucking business before buying much of the waterfront land from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad for $7.5 million in 1981. He then started the NY Waterway ferry service between Weehawken and Manhattan. A sports fan, he was once the owner of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. The logic for him is obvious. If the neighbourhood is deemed to be more glamorous, the price of real estate will rise and he will make profits. There will also be more business for his ferry company."
From there, you'd loop around to the left. Which is where I started my little "First Drive" in a press fleet Jaguar XKR convertible with a GPS tracking-enabled Contour+ HD strapped to the side. After starting the video, I turned right onto Port Imperial Blvd.
As you'll see in the video, the course then cuts around to a long, fast right until finally taking a loop onto Anthony M. Delfino Way — which, thanks to a complete lack of information on him from Google, I believe was likely some late, great disco dancer who died of four different types of herpes. (Editor's Note: I guess his name is Defino, not Delfino... and he is the late mayor of someplace in Jersey. But, hey, I'm not the only one who gets it wrong. Most of Google does too.) Then, I took a sharp left onto the wide JFK Boulevard. As drivers race past Donnelly Memorial Park — where there's plenty of room for grandstands and viewers — they'll be treated to some absolutely breath-taking views of Manhattan — especially at night.
After about 1/3 of a mile, there's a sharp left and then a sharp right onto Pershing Rd. to a bridge running above the light rail tracks over to an area that's not quite completed yet (thus, as you'll notice in the video, I have to back up and drive sort of around the construction zone.
But that area will give the course engineers plenty of room to play with to create some tight-and-twisties. As Jack Nelson over at Bleacher Report wrote last year:
This street track, probably the most likely, would be just over 5 kilometers, or 3.14 miles. There is enough pavement for passing and for safety installations, the terrain and scenery are outstanding, you have a ready market that could arrive on public transport or even on foot. It looks like there is no residence trapped in the infield. There is a general hospital nearby. It's perfect.
I couldn't agree more. And as I drove the course last night in that Jaguar XKR, I couldn't help but think how much I'd love to see this new "Formula One Grand Prix of America" as a night race. That gorgeous skyline, lit up like it's the world's biggest Christmas tree festival, would serve as the perfect backdrop.
So even if we find out in two hours that the course won't look like this, it really should. Screw Austin, Texas — this view is what defines America's success and failures, its hopes and its dreams — and we've got to show it off.