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Designs on Track Part 1: Meet the Designer

Plans for Viking Motorsport Park Viking Motorsport Park, a planned oval and road course in Sweden which is still awaiting full approval
 Neil Tipton
 Wednesday, February 18, 2015

He's the man who wrote the manual on motor racing circuit design (literally - it's called 'All You Need to Know About Motor Race Design'. Compiled over many years, it is now hundreds of pages long and Tom has the only copy), and a former director of the BRDC and Silverstone to boot, but Tom Barnard is more than willing to talk about the finer points of his trade to a complete novice.

From his home in Dorset, Tom has penned a number of complete circuits and re-worked quite a few old favourites too, from Mondello Park in Ireland to Mallory Park in Leicestershire. But the latest project for his International Circuit Designs company is probably the most ambitious; designing a combined road and oval course in the centre of Sweden.

He's an accomplished racer too, having campaigned Lotus sportscars with some success for Colin Chapman in the 1950s; numerous mementos of his racing past - from trophies to photographs and model cars - adorn the walls and display cabinets around his home.Tom Barnard at his drawing board

So just how did the racer turn gamekeeper to plot the course for numerous drivers down the years to follow? The answer is simple. After a stint of national service, his desire to race led to an inevitable conclusion; post-war Britain simply had too few circuits.

"I fell in with another guy who was also very interested in motor racing," he explains. "We had been down to Goodwood and I had driven round in a Jaguar and I wanted to get involved. We used to go to the Air Ministry to get hold of the drawings of all of the airfields that were being discontinued and were going to be handed back to their original owners. We would jump in a car and go down to try and persuade them not to rip up the runways and see whether we could actually create a rival to Silverstone and Goodwood, both of which existed in 1951.

"The following year with the help of various people, including Mike Hawthorn, we worked on a scheme to try and turn an airfield in Hampshire into a proper racing circuit but about the same time I started to race myself, and I fell in with Colin Chapman and started racing Lotuses. In fact, for a long time, although my interest was there, I wasn't actually involved in circuit design."

Silverstone re-birth

A brush with stadium design in the 1960s and a spell in stock car racing diverted attention until 1992, when he became director of the BRDC and Silverstone Circuit for a short period, working alongside Ken Tyrrell to try and make the circuit a much more broadly-based affair.

"One of the things I was responsible for was the development of Silverstone, including things like the vexed question of the by-pass," explains Tom. "I found that a little bit inhibiting and I switched to being the advisor on development to the chief executive of Silverstone Circuits.

"Ever since April 1992, when I started working with Ken Tyrrell, almost everything I have done has been motorsport venue work - not just circuit design but all the things that go with it, because I find it very essential to the plot. For example, at Silverstone I did the driving school (Stowe Course) and I helped with the pits, but I also was involved with basic things like drainage and water supply and bringing in a whole new electricity supply from behind the Jordan factory.

Into Sweden

"I was taken ill from overwork and I stopped working at Silverstone but I then got involved with a whole succession of other things with Estoril, Interlagos, a scheme out in America, a couple of jobs out in the Arab Emirates, and then finally after several years of talking about it, we found a site in Sweden and I have been working on that project ever since."

And it's certainly an ambitious one. If it all comes to fruition, a state-of-the-art circuit will soon rise from the forests near Enköping, slap bang in the centre of Sweden, comprising a three-quarter mile oval, 2.7 mile road course and a drag strip, complete with underground heating to extend the racing season further into the harsh Scandinavian winters.

In-between there has also been design work for Mallory Park in Leicestershire, so there is no question of throttling back - but then a racer's instinct would never allow that anyhow. However, there may still be room for a helping hand along the way - budding Barnard's take note.

"If someone is going to get involved, I think there's a really long apprenticeship," he warns. "But I have to say I would love to find someone who could take over from me because I have got a lot going on - and there's a lot more coming in - and I haven't got a successor at the moment. So if anyone's interested in learning the trade I would be quite happy to talk to them."

Now where did I put my draughtboard and slide rule...

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