Wednesday morning’s breaking-ground ceremony marked the beginning of the Lake Torrent build, Northern Ireland’s new £29million race track. Work won’t start on the Coalisland track for another month but the first dig represented something much greater.
This is happening!
Planning permission was granted for the first phase of work earlier in September by Mid Ulster District Council. This will include the 2.2-mile Grade B FIM circuit, pit facilities, medical centre, restaurant, hospitality suite and six business units.
Manna Developments CEO and Lake Torrent founder, David Henderson, expects the first phase to be completed in early 2019, with a track launch planned for spring ‘19.
Along with planning approval and FIM/FIA licenses, Lake Torrent has the budget to progress the project.
“There are no grants, and there is no government funding,” said Henderson.
“It is all private equity funding and it is being achieved outside of Northern Ireland.”
If you look at the project in closer detail you will soon figure out that the use of the former clay pit site is a stroke of genius by Henderson, introduced to it by local MP Francie Malloy.
“A derelict site left on the edge of Coalisland, a mess, nobody could afford to do anything with it,” explained Henderson.
“I am doing the regeneration of the clay pits, it will host the circuit but it will also have all the industrial areas to it.
“That is our second phase, all the industrial units.
“That money backs this up.”
Located in the heart of Northern Ireland’s engineering County (Tyrone) and only four miles from the M1, N. Ireland’s main motorway, I can’t think of a better venue for such a complex.
His forty year construction experience puts Henderson in good stead when it comes to Lake Torrent’s three-phase development. But it is the motorsport passion within Henderson that will make the 12-turn track something special.
“I was fortunate in my young days – I lived very close to Dundrod (home of the Ulster GP),” said Henderson.
“And as a boy of eight years, I used to lie in a hedge as the bikes would fly past.
“The smell and sound of them put shivers up me and so the seed was sown at a very young age.”
Henderson looked throughout Northern Ireland for the perfect location to host an international motorsport centre since coming up with the idea in 2000. He has turned many options down, whether it be for lack of character or lack of infrastructure. Even the ‘08 recession intervened but 17 years on he has completed the first dig at his dream venue.
“This country needs an international circuit,” said Henderson. “One that has got the shape and the feel of the road but with the safety.”
It was a design formula that the engineers of Driven International have now adopted and they are clearly excited by the opportunities it offers, parallel to the 163-acre site’s impressive landscape.
“The nature of the site offers a lot of undulation, around the lake and where the quarry has been levelled so we wanted to use that to the best of our abilities,” described Driven managing director, Ben Willshire.
“In the UK there are a lot of airfield circuits but Lake Torrent is much more akin to Cadwell Park or Oulton Park.”
“It has got to be one of the more spectacular tracks we have worked on,” said Driven’s project director Ramzi Darghouth.
“Simply because it has got a lot of elevation change, from top to bottom it’s 30 metres, with some good uphill and downhill sections and some good banking as well.”
Lake Torrent is a project with clear and obvious potential.
To think it is a 30-minute drive from my house is hard to believe. One thing that did sink in on Wednesday morning was the sheer scale of the whole operation. The lakes are stunning and will complement the rolling, road-like circuit when it is completed in 18 months.
With the aim of hosting four major race weekends at the track every year, Lake Torrent will remain active throughout the year. From track days to corporate events, Triathlon training to hosting weddings, Henderson has created an inclusive plan to put Northern Ireland on the global racing map.
Level-headed planning with high ambitions for the future – Lake Torrent is full of potential.