The all important first layer of tarmac at the Bahrain International Circuit was completed this week.

Although a further two layers of tarmac are required, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix organisers can now officially say that they have a circuit!

Bahrain's all new 5.410km track is the latest addition to the World's Grand Prix circuits and is being readied to host the first round of the FIA Formula One World Championship ever to take place in the Middle East. Next year's race will be the third round of the championship and will be contested in the desert to the South of the Kingdom's capital city of Manama on April 4th.

Laying a Grand Prix circuit is a delicate and precise art. The surface on which the World's top drivers will compete for Grand Prix honours has to be constant and mirror flat. The circuit's surface is coming together under the watchful eye of BIC project manager, Mr Gordon Calder the man employed by the Bahrain Minister of Works to bring the programme home on schedule.

Calder and his team are working to the architectural designs of Tilke GmbH. The German company is well known throughout the Formula One world for its circuit design but according to chief civil engineer for the Bahrain Circuit Peter Hohmann, "every circuit is different and has its own unique characteristics. The circuit here in Bahrain has been a real challenge and is certainly the first time that we have experienced anything like building a circuit in the desert! Time is also an important criteria and I am delighted that we are well on schedule to meet the April date for the race."

One of the major concerns while laying the tarmac surface is the heat, but the winter months are 'cooler' and provide the perfect conditions for 'curing' the various layers of tarmac. The first, or 'base course', has now been completed and is going through the curing period. This process will last throughout the months of December and January and then the second 'binder course' will be applied at the end of January.

While almost all the construction techniques are the same as would be applied in Europe and elsewhere, the base and binder courses are designed to a standard of construction peculiar to Bahrain. This means that the team are using a local stone that is perfect for the conditions.

Mr Gordon Calder says: "When building a circuit in Europe for example, this stone peculiar to Bahrain would not be used due to its stress value at minus temperatures. A problem not associated with the Gulf!."

As with everything else at the Bahrain circuit, work has been going on around the clock in order to achieve the completion date in time for April's race. The site is a scene of constant motion with workers and their construction equipment pounding throughout the day and night.

Laying the tarmac is no different and layers that constitute the track are mixed at a batching plant off site and transported by lorry to the circuit. The laying is done with asphalt pavers and then compacted with rollers.



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