Formula E Track Success
IRL are immensely proud to have been involved in this project as this was the first-time resin has ever been used for a racetrack worldwide, the new surface represented a step into the unknown for Formula E. It had not even been tested with a road car on it, never mind a racing machine.
The debut of the Formula E London E-Prix had originally been intended as the finale of the 2019/20 season. However, the coronavirus pandemic saw ExCeL repurposed as an NHS 'Nightingale Hospital', leaving the venue unavailable for racing.
The circuit duly made its debut in July 2021, with a slightly modified course from the original proposals being used for the double header event. The London race is set to feature in successive seasons, with series organisers having signed a multi-year deal.
The background to the Client specification started as a sketch on a piece of paper by Race Director Oli McCrudden and was at one point rejected for being “too out there,” but eventually became a reality using an indoor surface which had never had a car test on it, never mind race.
The search for a UK based E–Prix was one that stretched across large swathes of England, as Formula E was desperate for a long-term location in the country where its offices are based. It was a journey that led Formula E in full circle, right back to where it started.
A Resin System was chosen because the main problem that presented itself was the fact that the existing floor of the ExCel, usually used as an Exhibition Centre, was unsuitable to race cars on. The surface of the Race Hall, hosting the paddock and the grid – was a polished, painted concrete slab, it was very smooth and the idea of trying to get cars going over it just did not quite make any sense – they would be everywhere! The only option to put a track down at the time that anyone really could think of was a bit like the Race of Champions, where they effectively put in some trackway and then skimmed asphalt over the top and built up the walls around the racetrack, then they took it away afterwards. From a cost point of view that was just inefficient, and from an environmental point of view that is not sustainable in the long run. So, they needed to come up with a way that they could lay this down, not have to take it up, and allow the venue to continue to operate as an exhibition hall.
The Formula E team had to get creative in solving the problem, and it was the man who came up with the original Battersea Park track design that cracked the concrete conundrum. The Resin solution was both cost effective and sustainable.
IRL were Nominated for this project by Sika Limited, SRM approached Sika and requested a list of approved contractors to carry out these works, Sika nominated 4 contractors who were then audited, and background checks carried out which IRL successfully passed. Following an initial telephone conversation with the Main Contractor IRL submitted their quotation which was originally for the Sikafloor EB12 system. They were invited to a post tender interview where the integrity of IRL’s Health and Safety and sustainability was scrutinized. As part of the interview, discussions involved an alternative option to speed up the cure of the system, this was to use Sikafloor Pronto 18 as the topcoat in place of the Sikafloor 264. By doing this they did not alter the matrix of the system. The main advantage of this system was that the Pronto 18 was fully cured in just 2 hours.
Sir Robert McAlpine were appointed Principal Contractor at ExCel London for the delivery of a Formula E Racetrack and after completing rigorous Sub Contractor Competency criteria and Quality Assurance processes IRL were awarded this prestigious project and with the excellent coordination skills of the IRL Contracts team they effectively organized teams and preparation subcontractors to accomplish the massive task of completing 9000 sq metres in 9 weeks.
The key staff engaged on this project have previously completed the FeRFA NVQ Level 2 in Insitu Flooring. IRL’s Managing Director, Mark Ollerenshaw, (SMSTS) supervised the project; taking charge of seven staff, consulting with Sir Robert McAlpine’s Site Agents in all aspects of health and safety, including in-depth site inductions where work areas were designated and agreed with the Arena.
Challenges were soon apparent in the setting out of the track, the full length of the track was never visible until it was complete as the halls were in use throughout the project.
The works were carried out in sections to keep the halls in use. Setting out was a challenge, this needed to be accurate to ensure the track lined through when it was unveiled.
To achieve slip resistance of 70 in the wet was quite a challenge but achieved on all phases. Overall, the Resin System gave the client a surface that had the right slip ratio value for the FIA and its technical requirements, and it was level with the existing surface of the hall, so there were no issues for exhibition users.
Not only was this a winning formula for FIA the project also scooped IRL the award of Large Commercial Project of the year at the FeRFA 2022 awards ceremony.
A testimonial from the Client said
“IRL were fantastic throughout, from early engagement, advising on various products to suit the demands of the specification, through to application and testing and even returning to carry out last minute additional works to satisfy some late track changes. Working around a live exhibition centre, IRL were flexible with the demands of Sir Robert McAlpine and those of our Client, ExCeL London. Everyone we dealt with at IRL, from Directors to operatives, showed utmost professionalism and attention to detail throughout.
It would be a pleasure to work with them again”
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