A sneak peek at the Saudia Arabian GP Jeddah Corniche Circuit

Saudia Arabian GP
Eric Lafforgue / Getty Images
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Five races remain on the 2021 Formula One schedule and two of the final three Grand Prixs will be held in countries hosting the series for the first time with the addition of the Saudi Arabian GP and the Qatar GP.

The penultimate race on the calendar could be one of the most exciting and interesting events of the season as the flat 3.84-mile Jeddah Corniche Circuit is projected to create some of the fastest lap times with the most corners of any 2021 track.

“The circuit in Jeddah will be extraordinary,” said F1 track designer Carsten Tilke at Formula1.com. “It will be a different kind of street track, something the world has never seen before.”

The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is being designed in a part of the city that was mostly empty of buildings, which allows the track designers to create the longest, and they believe fastest, street circuit in Formula One history. In fact, the Jeddah circuit is shorter than only one permanent course with Spa-Francorchamps measuring at 4.35 miles in length.

Since this is a purpose-built track creating its own system of roads, including banked corners, it stretches the definition of a street course, but those concerns will fade away as soon as cars hit the pavement.

The track is positioned on the shores of the Red Sea, so there will not be any significant elevation change that would scrub off momentum. Simulations suggest speeds for the Saudia Arabian GP will be in the range of 157 m.p.h. Australia’s Albert Park is about 10 miles per hour slower.

With so much open space, the temptation existed to create long straightaways, so they did. But Tilke and his engineers did not scrimp on the corners. Jeddah will boast more turns than any other current track with 27. The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore has 23. This year’s finale will be held at the Yas Marina Circuit one week later in Abu Dhabi, where drivers will have to master 21 turns.

“Why this circuit works so well is that it will have the atmosphere of an urban venue, but the space and run-off so we can increase the speed of the corners,” said Tilke. “This is something you can normally only do at a permanent facility, but here we have been able to create very challenging fast corners that the drivers will love.

“I have driven the lap many times on the simulator and with sections featuring walls close to the edge of the circuit, you really need to concentrate to avoid making a mistake. It will be very rewarding for those who can master all 27 corners.”

The unique topography is not the only factor that allows the designers to take bold moves. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is essentially a place holder for a permanent course planed for 2023 at Qiddiya, near the capital Riyadh. Jeddah will also host the 2022 Saudia Arabian GP on March 27.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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