A racing group that includes one time Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan says it will unveil plans in June for a massive racetrack complex on 900 acres in Martin County to replace the now-shuttered Palm Beach International Raceway.
The group, Formula Race Promotions headed by Al Guibord, tried but failed to buy the 175-acre PBIR, which is under contract to warehouse-builder Portman Industrial.
“We saw how much the racing community wanted something here,” spokesman Corey Saban said. “Our team got together (and said) let’s scout out our own piece of property knowing the Moroso deal wasn’t going to happen for us.”
The group, including Sullivan, will hold a press conference at the proposed site in early June, Saban said.
PBIR, which closed April 23, formerly was known as Moroso Motorsports Park. Opposition from race fans on April 28 persuaded a county zoning board to reject Portman’s proposal to build 2.1 million square feet of warehouse space on the site. Portman plans to try again in September.
The proposal for a new track is the clearest indication yet that Guibord’s group has no hope of wresting control of PBIR from Portman or any other commercial builder.
The proposal for Atlantic Farms Motorsports Park, published online May 13, promises multiple road courses, a drag strip, a karting track, high-end garages for car collectors, a skidpad, an amphitheater and hospitality and clubhouse space, Saban said.
PBIR, which opened in 1964, featured a 2.2-mile race course, a quarter-mile drag strip and an abandoned go-kart track. Its owner, IRG Sports & Entertainment, also sold or is selling tracks in Memphis, Tenn.; Cordova, Ill.; and Mechanicsville, Md.
The Atlantic Farms proposal has yet to go before the notoriously strict Martin County Commission and calls to the county’s growth management department revealed no familiarity with the proposal, meaning construction and an opening date could be years away.
Atlantic Farms’ website says the property is 20 minutes from PBIR, which is in Palm Beach County on the Beeline Highway west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. Saban said the new site is in Martin County but wouldn’t say where.
An 890-acre property owned by R&B Ranch has been listed for sale as a hunting retreat for $7.9 million in Martin County. It’s on the Beeline Highway, known as Southwest Warfield Boulevard, just northwest of PBIR. But it’s only about 10 miles away from PBIR — about a 10-minute ride.
In its May 13 press release, Atlantic Farms took the unusual step of releasing plans before lining up zoning approvals.
‘Massive demand for a safe place’
“We are excited to announce Atlantic Farms Motorsports Park, a 900-acre world-class motorsport/automotive/entertainment facility that will be home to racing, corporate and charitable events and serve as an automotive research and development track for manufacturers to test, develop and showcase their latest technologies,” its press release says.
Quoting Guibord, the statement continued: “We are overwhelmed and encouraged by all the support we have received from our Save the Track campaign and are excited to work with county and state officials to bring this project to the region to benefit the entire community. With the closing of PBIR, there is a massive demand for a safe place for car enthusiasts, manufacturers, and other OEM suppliers to enjoy motorsports.”
The Save Palm Beach Raceway campaign listed three principals, Guibord, as a founder and creator of Formula Race Promotions and a commercial real estate developer; Barry Lederman, who cites executive roles at various companies; and Sullivan, the former racing commentator whose Indy victory is in racing lore as the “spin and win,” after he lost control and spun out while taking the lead on lap 120 but kept his car on the track and 20 laps later regained the lead, holding on for the next 61 laps and victory.
‘Are we not expensive enough?’
Guibord started Formula Race Promotions, based in Salem, N.H., in 2006 with F2000 racers Mike Rand and Bob Wright. It markets itself as providing grassroots racing opportunities in addition to its Pro Racing series. It runs the Right Coast Formula Ford Series and the Challenge Cup Formula Vee series.
“We are often looked over when it comes to popular motorsports series,” Guibord is quoted as saying on the website. “Is it because we are not a national program? Are we not expensive enough? If you look at our track record, what we offer, and the advancement of drivers, we provide one of the best and most cost-effective race programs within the United States.”
In August, Guibord told The Palm Beach Post of his plans if FRP’s bid had been accepted to buy the former Moroso raceway.
He said he would spend more than $50 million to fix the aged track, build for-sale car garages, create event space and elevate the complex into a world-class attraction.
His plans included building a clubhouse and restaurant and bringing FRP’s racing series to the track, including a series for young drivers, The Post reported.
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