A massive expansion plan is in the works at Utah Motorsports Campus, with former general manager Alan Wilson overseeing the design of ten new tracks in China by 2025, all part of a large influx of investment from Chinese automotive company Geely and its subsidiary Mitime Investment & Development Group.
The Utah facility, formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park, recently hosted Pirelli World Challenge, but with its new owners operating under a management contract with Tooele County, after the sale of the property was vacated by a judge late last year due to a pending lawsuit.
In an interview with Sportscar365, Wilson, the President of Mitime of UMC, said they expect to have full ownership of the property within the next 30 days, which would let Mitime move forward on its ambitious plans.
Plans for UMC include construction of a half-mile paved oval track outside of Turn 1, a quarter-mile drag strip, the relocation of the motocross track, which is currently in the infield of the 4.5-mile road course, as well as a 3-star hotel with on-site restaurant, along with other facility upgrades.
Wilson said it would result in an immediate investment of between $8-10 million, excluding the hotel, as part of Mitime’s vision of making UMC a destination and training facility for Chinese tourists and automotive professionals.
According to a University of Utah report, most of the reported $7.98 billion in state tourism spending has come from people outside of the state and country, including a growing number from China, which has seen a 56 percent increase in tourism spending in recent years.
“Utah is a surprisingly high tourist market, particularly from China,” Wilson told Sportscar365. “The Chinese come to see the [state] parks and there’s more Chinese tourists than all other tourists put together.
“What we want to do is create a base. We’ll pick them up at the airport, they’ll stay at the hotel, which will have signs in both Chinese and English. There will be a restaurant that serves Chinese food and a 24-hour reception and cars that can be rented and buses that can be used.
“We know it’s difficult for them because nobody speaks Chinese. Funny enough, they actually teach Mandarin at [local] schools, but they’re still at the young ages. We’ve hired some of the teachers to be the translators.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive program. And that’s before we do anything on the automotive side.”
Wilson said they plan to expand UMC’s track day program to include a fleet of Formula 4 cars, as well as offering more arrive-and-drive opportunities and corporate events catered for tourists and developing drivers.
The other major component to the facility will be on the education level, with Mitime, which owns 20 colleges and seven universities in China, working to partner with a Utah university to offer automotive engineering degrees, with courses held at the track.
UMC will also serve as an incubator for the expansion of motorsports in China, which Wilson has turned the majority of his attention to.
Plans are in place for construction of five new tracks in China over the next five years, and a total of ten by 2025, all bankrolled by Geely Automotive, which is behind the major push.
“Motorsports is still very low key in China,” Wilson said. “It’s been led astray for the last ten years by European promoters who come in, make a huge promise, ask for a lot of money and run an event, from a Chinese point of view, with a lot of no-names.
“Then they’re gone. They take the money and the Chinese are sitting back saying, ‘We lost money.’
‘There’s no real coordination. Geely has the devout target of becoming the leading company in motorsport, both by owning the highest-level facilities, by developing corporate business for the tracks and introducing race series.”
Geely, which owns Volvo and the London Taxi Company, recently launched the Chinese F4 Championship and will be building FIA Grade 2 circuits in a number of key markets that are currently untouched by motorsports.
Wilson said planning and/or construction is underway for tracks in Ningbo, Hunan, Wuhan, Guangzhou, as well as a F1-level facility in Beijing. They are also currently looking at property for a circuit on the tropical island of Hainan.
All of the tracks, designed by Wilson, will be between 3.3 and 3.7 miles in length and feature twin layouts. Each facility will also have a dirt track and small paved oval for late model-like cars and sprint cars, which will be built at UMC.
Wilson said the Utah facility will also serve as a training base for the new track staff, with one of the new Chinese track managers having already spent three months at UMC earlier this year.
“There’s [currently] only six race tracks in China, so there’s no place that new tracks can go to hire quality staff or experienced staff,” he said.
“The idea is that they’ll come [to UMC], learn by assimilating within this environment. Some might be here for six weeks or six months, depending on their task.
“They’ll then go back and open the tracks there and then our guys will go to their first events to help them.”
Wilson, whose company has designed more than 30 tracks around the world, including UMC, Barber Motorsports Park and NOLA Motorsports Park, said his current project with Geely and Mitime is one of the most ambitious yet.
“It’s a big, big plan but it’s fully funded and they’re fully committed. There’s a lot of potential,” he said.