Creating the perfect twist

The classic racetrack will be reconstructed at NJMP with surprises for drivers, riders and fans

Car and motorcycle racers as well as track day enthusiasts are excited to see the race track re-paved, new speeds, new lap records and personal bests.

​​​​​​​That said, the announcement by New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) that their classic Thunderbolt road course will be repaved has a lot more to it.

“We have some surprises in store for drivers, riders and fans,” teased Brad Scott, NJMP President and Chief Operating Officer.

The track renovation, which debuted in August 2008 for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Supercar Life 250 race, is news enough.

In its 15-year history, Thunderbolt has hosted major professional car and motorcycle racing series, used grassroots racing clubs for its national and regional events, played a role in driver and rider education through the many schools and development days held there, and has produced countless drivers. and racers with a challenge and a smile after their track days. Thunderbolt is home to the NJMP Drivers Club and NJMP Riders Club. And it was used by major producers as well as film crews for their projects.

“Over the years, NJMP has grown and diversified,” noted Lee Brahin, NJMP Managing Director, highlighting the action at two world-class racetracks, a state-of-the-art karting facility, NJMP’s exotic car development. Garages together with driver and rider clubs and a wide range of off-road events and activities held in the park.

“Every year we welcome more than 600,000 visitors and participants. We are investing in the future, using this success to offer even more to our customers and partners,” added fellow managing director and seasoned pro racer RJ Valentine.

The multi-million dollar project is part of NJMP’s ongoing investment plan and is scheduled to begin in October 2023 before the 2024 season opens. The project team will include Dr. Brian Prowell, Principal Engineer of Advanced Materials Services. During his distinguished career, Dr. Prowell has overseen the construction or renovation of more than 30 racetracks of all types across the country. Bryce Engelhart, lead designer of Technical Track Design (TTD), will provide his expertise in track design and safety.

While updating and retaining the classic feel of the original track with a mix of smooth high-speed turns, traditional mid-speed corners and challenging technical sections, there are exciting improvements.

“The redevelopment project allows us to complete many things on our wish list – an extended exit area at Turn 1 at the end of the high-speed front straight, widening and redesigning curbs at key corners based on input from our drivers and riders and partners, and the creation of new viewing areas with raised piles so spectators can rest on the grassy hillside while watching the action on the track,” explained Scott.

The Turn 1 safe zone extension is designed to FIA 2 design standards and includes more tarmac drains towards Turn 2 to provide extra space for cars to regain control, as well as a robust 150ft gravel trap supported by upgraded tires . walls for those who can’t do it.

The best part of the project involves creating new track configurations alongside the classic Thunderbolt circuit. “We have a team of veteran drivers, racers and track operations specialists dedicated to offering new track layout options – versions designed to offer a different driving and riding experience at higher speeds, with a different track feel and flow, and new pedestrian zones”.

“Brad shared his vision for the new structures that will be added to the traditional track,” commented multiple road race champion John Haynesworth, who began his driving career with NJMP in 2009. – The discussion that took place among a group of racers and racers, each of whom shared his thoughts on the characteristics of various road racing tracks and turns, was very interesting to be a part of.”

NJMP Driver Club member and longtime amateur racer Tom Smith agreed. “Here is a unique opportunity to preserve a fun and challenging road racing circuit while bringing new configuration options for everyone to enjoy for years to come.”

The technical details of the milling, base preparation and resurfacing will be determined following base testing, extensive analysis and detailed planning in preparation for the start of work at the end of the 2023 season.


Preliminary designs for the new track options include a variant codenamed “The Clip”, which creates a 180-degree hairpin at Turn 7, connecting the existing Turns 7 and 10. Modeling suggests that this configuration provides a higher minimum speed, excluding which is usually the slowest corner on the track (turn 9). New opportunities are now created to pass through and through Turn 7, as well as a faster approach to Turn 10. A preview of “Clip” is shown below.


Modeling predicts that the second variant, codenamed “The 90”, will be the fastest of the track layouts. The “90” retains the traditional turn 7, which exits into a flat wide right turn. But instead of slowing down on the narrow technical section of the traditional circuit, you continue to accelerate on the new straight, followed by a braking zone and a ’90’ that returns to the original track halfway through the Esses. This offers a complex set-up flow through the widening right turn and the next straight for a new passing opportunity – and a critical turn for perfect execution for speed down the front straight! A preview of “The 90” is shown below.

These two new options, with or without the existing Turn 3 chicane, will be available for use in addition to the Classic Thunderbolt course and Classic Thunderbolt with Chicane, giving NJMP customers six unique and engaging experiences.


“It’s very exciting to share the sketches and details of the project,” said Scott. “Our team and our partners have a lot of energy to create the perfect turns, the most important turns for competitors and students to try to get right as they take on the challenges that the new Thunderbolt complex will present.”