Pictured above – A Mercedes Cabriolet is set to hit the track.

National autocross event looking at August of 2023

Crossville – Lotus, Ltd (Lotus) and Mercedes Benz Club of America (MCBCA) want to break in the soon-to-be Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub next August with a national autocross event, but there is one caveat, the racetrack must meet layout safety standards and costs and support requirements.

Simply put, they need to know that safety and course control meet their lofty standards.

When Flatrock Motorsports, headed by Partners Keith Holdbrooks, Brad Ward, David Ward, Rusty Bittle, Teddy Phillips and Kevin Clayton, announced they would be opening a racetrack and motor club in Crossville, they said the goal was to make the venue “Tennessee’s world-class motorsports and entertainment destination”.

The first phases of the park are scheduled for completion in the spring of 2023 and will be designed by Tike Engineers and Architecture. Lotus looks to bring a weekend entertainment event to the venue that includes much more than just racing.

James Roberts, Performance Driving Skills Director for Lotus and chairman of the Performance Driving Committee for the MCBCA America, told the Upper Cumberland Business Journal (UCBJ) that Lotus has been eyeing the site since it was announced.

“Location is important. The Lotus, ltd chapter in Knoxville asked for the 2023 national event when they thought the track would be built earlier in Oak Ridge,” said Roberts.

What are the plans for the event? On Friday, Aug. 25 the Lotus Owners Gathering (L.O.G.) will start with a reception. The very next day there will be a concourse car show.

“There is usually a featured high-ranking Lotus exec (President or design chief) speaker Saturday night,” said Roberts. “Sunday is usually an autocross along with drives in the mountains.” 

An Autocross is a timed competition where drivers navigate the course individually.

That Monday, Aug. 28, will look to feature Performance Driving on the track. There will be safety inspections and classroom sessions followed by on-track instruction with instructors in each car.

“We also offer a highway speed version of this event,” said Roberts. “We typically have both MBCA and Lotus, Ltd participants, so I have shirts and driver’s suits with both club logos. We typically draw 300-400 total participants. Not all of them drive on the track, but we encourage parade laps at lunch for those too old or too timid for the full track experience.”

Preliminary plans for Flatrock feature a 3.50-mile private Member’s Club track, a 2.67-mile Grand Prix track, and a 5.9-mile endurance track. The club track will feature a 127 ft elevation change with a 2.04-minute average lap time and should allow an average speed of 101 mph.

A rendering of the Flatrock motorsports track. File photo.

“The Tennessee landscape with its natural and rolling elevations cradle this course design and create over 34 dynamic turns for racing enthusiasts to visit and enjoy. It is destined to become a premier motorsports destination in the United States and Internationally,” said Mark Ezell, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Tourism, of Flatrock.

Roberts said registration starts at $100, but that price will increase as the event draws closer.  

“We base the Performance Driving cost on the track cost which varies greatly from track to track,” said Roberts.

The event looks to include evening banquets which will be held at a yet unnamed Knoxville hotel. If the event is a go, Roberts said they will work with track staff to host a Monday lunch on site.

“If you add up the hotels, food, registration and track participation, most participants will be spending $700-900 on the event,” said Roberts.

The events move from year to year after listening to proposals and deciding on tracks that meet the event’s needs. Recent events have been held in Salt Lake City and West Virginia and next year they will have an event in Texas.

Roberts said they probably won’t be back to Atlanta anytime soon, however.  

“We have been in Birmingham, Atlanta and upstate New York 3 times each,” said Roberts. “We like medium sized cities or smaller towns with twisty roads and a track nearby. I think the Nashville chapter is interested, so we may be back with you in the future.” 

MBCA is staging 6 events in 2023 with Lotus, Ltd involved in two of them.

“The most gratifying aspect of this for both clubs is to see the elation of the students as their skills increase,” said Roberts. “When they finally experience the feel of G-forces as they accelerate through the turns, their ecstasy is palpable and most gratifying.”

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