As you could see in our articles (update 1, update 2) about the changes that are being made a reality on Circuit Zandvoort, Jarno Zaffelli and his company Dromo Circuit Design fulfil an imporant role. Jeroen van Kesteren talked to Mr. Zaffelli about the changes, his role and expectations for the race.
We were at Circuit Zandvoort and I must say ‘WOW’. Amazing to see what has happened since the last update in December. What do you feel personally now, walking around the track in its current state?
Jarno Zaffelli – I’m really proud of all the people involved, the work is progressing as per the time schedule. We had a bit of luck with the weather, so we can not complain at all.
It is an honour to be able to enhance a great circuit to allow Formula 1 racing and other categories.
How did you (and your company) get involved with this project? Was it a tender process where you competed with other designers or was the organization especially looking at your company to execute this project?
Jarno Zaffelli – There was a tender between the most renowned circuit design firms, and we have been chosen by the circuit management. Therefore our technical and commercial offering must have scored higher than our competitors’ offerings.
The expression ‘Tilke track’ is widely known in Formula 1. Is there something like a ‘Dromo track’ and what makes a Dromo-designed track unique?
Jarno Zaffelli – The Dromo approach to circuit design is based on the racing participants, in terms of driver, the audience in the grandstand, the viewer via television or other media. We engineer for a great experience for all. For the drivers/ riders to be smiling at the end of the race from the racing, for the audience to have enjoyed the close racing, overtaking and side-by-side manoeuvres through corners, and for those watching via television to be on the edge of their seats.
I believe Silverstone’s resurfacing in 2019 delivered on our approach for both Formula 1 and MotoGP.
“We engineer for a great experience for all”
How difficult is it to make changes to the track, like extra safety and more overtaking opportunities, while also keeping the authentic aspects like gravel runoff and tight corners of the Zandvoort track alive?
Jarno Zaffelli – For existing circuits the challenge is more difficult though not impossible. For designing a new circuit, whether on a greenfield or as part of a masterplan for a resort, it comes down to how early we are engaged. Street circuits bring their own challenges due to runoffs, locations from where people can watch, and ensuring exciting racing.
Zandvoort is an iconic circuit, though being built near the sea, on sand dunes brings challenges. The collaboration between all parties has enabled us collectively to deliver a greatly enhanced circuit.
We have incorporated lessons from all other projects and studies Dromo has undertaken.
Are there unique elements that you implemented in the design at Circuit Zandvoort that have never been seen before on any other Formula 1 track?
Jarno Zaffelli – A few years ago, we developed a concept to a brief, which was called Double D. An offset figure of 8 banked oval type circuit, with different radiuses and progressive banking.
The learning from that specific project and other activities enabled us to demonstrate to the FIA / FOM, and other partners, for example Pirelli, the revised Zandvoort circuit which is under construction.
The turn 3 Hugenholtz banking is progressive and being built. The engineering of the corner is mathematically developed based on a Fibonacci series. It has a golden section in the corner, which is a world first.
The result will be a motorsport circuit with different banked corners, unique in the world, though geared for racing.
How do you combine the extra challenges for drivers with the high safety standards of the FIA? I can imagine if there are higher speeds in the banked corners, safety measures must be also very strict?
Jarno Zaffelli – We have engaged with all stakeholders, such as the FIA, FOM and Pirelli, on behalf of the Zandvoort management. We had discussions with the late Charlie Whiting about the project. We had a very positive relationship with Charlie on other projects.
Therefore, we have endeavoured to ensure that relative standards are met, and all stakeholders and ourselves have engaged in the necessary discussions and exchange of information to deliver the design.
The design model of the circuit – I believe you have seen the animation (see below) – reflects the actual design. This has been shared with the teams. After laying the wear course on the track we will provide a more refined model, as built, to the stakeholders.
And are there also elements that we can compare to other projects you have done in the past, for instance Suzuka or Silverstone?
Jarno Zaffelli – John Hugenholtz designed Suzuka and he inspired us to enhance the soul of the track, and to learn from how he originally designed the circuit, how to maximize the use of power. He was behind Zandvoort as well.
We learn from each project or study we undertake and incorporate lessons into future projects. Therefore we are naturally using the lessons from the Silverstone resurfacing, the collaborative approach between all parties, and some bits of engineering practices, which we have further refined.
How do you test certain elements that you come up with, before implementing it in the circuit design?
Jarno Zaffelli – We extensively benchmark other circuits, we monitor what is happening at various races, and continue to enhance our knowledge base. This can range from machines used for paving, to the latest simulators, to the type of aggregate used in the tarmac. We have a multi-dimensional approach.
In circuit design, the first important step, is a site visit and review. Then ascertaining the type of racing the motorsport circuit is gearing towards, and type of vehicles, motorbikes etc.
We employ CAD tools and extensive CAE techniques, complimented by visualization techniques, inclusive of scale models. We use simulators and the process is iterative, until we have a solution meeting all the criteria.
“We use simulators and the process is iterative, until we have a solution meeting all the criteria”
If we just let you wander off. Close your eyes. What is your vision thinking about May 3rd?
Jarno Zaffelli – Within Dromo we have a bet, which relates to how many cars will go through Turn 3 side by side and the close racing between drivers. Sunday 3rd May will be an interesting day.
Ok, now back to reality, with two feet on the ground. Everyone must have asked you this, but for outsiders it still feels like a shot to the moon to get everything ready before the end of February. Do you expect everything to be ready in time for the first event?
Jarno Zaffelli – Zandvoort has good partners on the construction side. The planning is comprehensive. The key variable, the weather, has been on the side of construction. Therefore we believe the track will be ready on time.
What are the most important milestones to accomplish before you can say: ‘The track is finished’ and hand the keys over to track owner Bernhard van Oranje?
Jarno Zaffelli – The important stage will be the start of laying asphalt. The verification of the initial layers will allow us to determine the final performance levels. The finish of the wearing course, the top layer of the asphalt, laid per Dromo specification and quality requirements once scanned and analysed, will be the confirmation of the finished track. Naturally, I will have driven it to confirm it.
“Naturally, I will have driven it to confirm it.”
Mr. Zaffelli, I want to thank you for your time to answer our questions and we are looking forward to the first weekend of May, when your design and hard work will pay off when you see the first drivers on track and happy spectators in the grandstands!
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