Wednesday, April 13, 2011

F1 United States Grand Prix in Austin Thoughts

John Marine | 4/13/2011 01:54:00 AM | |
NOTE: This blog post is obsolete, and it will be deleted in the near future to be replaced with an updated post. Enjoy this one while it lasts.

KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD! :) Back on May 30, 2010; I blogged about my thoughts on F1 returning to the United States in my home state of Texas. A lot has changed since then between that post and this one. The old post was deleted in favor of this updated blog post. I would like to welcome all of my racing fans to this blog post. I'm here to share my latest thoughts on this new facility and all the different news notes regarding it.

Before I Begin... FUN FACT:

I have NEVER been to Austin prior to posting this blog entry.

--- Thoughts on the Latest News ---
Here is a brief notebook of some news items based on what I've read online:

* new track called "Circuit of the Americas"
* 10-race deal for Formula 1 around COTA starting in 2012
* 10-race deal for MotoGP around COTA starting in 2013

Now here are some of my thoughts going section-by-section...

"Circuit of the Americas" Name.

As a native of Southeast Texas, I know how culturally-rich we are. The track essentially serves as a de facto home track for F1 rookie Sergio Perez. I don't look at the name "Circuit of the Americas" to be a way of saying "America's Circuit." Instead, I look at the namesake more like "a quality racing facility for both North America and Latin America." That's the way I look at it. I see it more from a cultural standpoint.

10-Race Deals for F1 and MotoGP.

Ten race deals around this course for Formula 1 sounds like a great one. MotoGP, however, was the real surprise to me. I feel a bit uneasy about this course's layout for MotoGP. That is unless the course in its F1 layout is motorcycle-friendly. If you don't know what I'm talking about, think about tracks like Suzuka where you have a motorcycle-friendly layout apart from the full Suzuka that most other racing series use.

Overall, it's great for a world-class racing facility like this to be in my home state.

--- Thoughts on F1's Return to the USA in Austin ---
My first thought is that this was very surprising to hear F1 want to return to the United States in Austin (of all places). I'm not hating on Austin; I'm just a bit surprised a city and an area like Austin can be such a place to hold an F1 race. Speaking as a Texas native, this just gives my native state something more to give my state some international appeal. I think this would be a great boost for American racing to have a pure international racing facility good enough to host Formula 1 (though F1 at Miller Motorsports Park or Barber Motorsports Park would be very cool). I'm going to hold the people behind this track to their word that they'll create a quality racing facility that is a breath of fresh air from some of the other tracks F1 races on.

The next question I'd have to ask is on when a race here in the States would be held. At least here in Houston, the warmer weather times are brutal, and rain can be crazy. There would have to be some commitment to try to keep up a European-style facility in central Texas considering the rain and heat Texas has. I'll surely be happy to stick by this course and have so much respect for it. That's especially if this newer course will supposedly be a welcome change of pace from most recent racing courses.

To the people designing this new course in Austin, I wish you the best in getting this track up and running and racing. I still want to learn more about the new course. But man... it's going to be a BIG plus for American racing, let alone for Formula 1.

Here's a weird note I picked up... the track is in the Austin area, and it is affiliated with Texas A&M (as in the main campus in College Station). But not the University of Texas? I find that strange. Then too, Texas and Texas A&M have been big time college rivals for decades in the Lone Star Showdown.

--- Why Austin? ---
This was something that crossed my mind in thinking about this whole course. I know there was a plan to hold the United States Grand Prix in the New York City area or at Monticello Motor Club. The idea of an F1 course in Texas was an interesting one. But then, I wasn't expecting Austin.

There were two reasons why I thought about why Austin rather than, say, the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Reason 1: Better Service the Houston/San Antonio/Austin Market?

Texas has three major markets- Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio-Austin. The reason why I thought about this was because there was to be a racing facility called Liberty Motorsports Park that was in the works. This would basically be our premier road racing facility to service the greater Houston area (the track is in Cleveland, Texas, USA). Then again, we were supposed to have our own oval track to welcome NASCAR and the IndyCar Series called Houston Superspeedway in Alvin, TX, USA. That track, however, did not materialize.

So there are two facilities that would have been our premier racing facility to service the Houston/Galveston area. Since neither worked, I probably felt that this Circuit of the Americas would be in a more favorable market- Austin. The only track that is even close to being any kind of premier PERMANENT road racing facility in the Houston area is Motorsport Ranch Houston in Angleton, TX, USA. Even though this track is in Austin, I still KIND OF look at COTA as a track to service racing fans in Southeast Texas in addition to Central and Southern Texas. Though this is out of bounds of talking about Texas, but I can remember when there was a proposed future F1 race to be held in Cancun, Mexico. Maybe this Circuit of the Americas came along to also be a great racing venue for Mexican racing series in addition to American racing series.

This all goes back to my "Circuit of America and Latin America" argument.

Reason 2: Austin as a Market?

I touched up on it in the previous piece. Maybe Austin was a favorable market nationally to hold a racing facility like this. It isn't like I am any kind of Economics major or actively follow economic news. I failed Macroeconomics in college and barely got by in high school economics. Therefore, I can't speak on any economic impact Austin has compared to the rest of the nation.

So it's for these two reasons why I think Austin was selected and with this great Circuit of the Americas course. Speaking of the track itself...

--- F1 Grand Prix of Austin Layout and Analysis (added 10/26/2010) ---
Here are a few figures on this track based on initial reports (hover mouse over image for more information):
Austin F1 Circuit Layout
^ original picture credit: - the Circuit of the Americas track layout.

--- Facts and Figures ---
Track Length: 3.4 miles
Track Width: 39 ft. - 52 ft.
Top Speed: 200 mph
Max Elevation Change: 133 ft.
Turns: 20
Direction: Counterclockwise/Anticlockwise

This layout was unveiled back on September 1st of 2010. This is a track to be built about 20 miles south of Austin. The main connecting road to this new track is Farm to Market Rd. 812. The facility lies just south-southeast of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

To me, this looks to be an immensely exciting course. This would be the kind of international racing facility that can host everything from club racing to the most major international circuit racing series (including Formula 1). This is a track I wouldn't even mind seeing series like the American Le Mans Series contest racing on. It reminds me to an extent of Istanbul Park in its many rhythm-based sections and the very long backstretch.

My Track Analysis.

The big elevation change going into Turn 1 reminds me a lot of the former racing facility, the A1 Ring (home to the Austrian Grand Prix). The series of corners after Turn 2 seems as rhythmetic as you'd see at Istanbul Park. Speeds will be incredible here! That is... unless the track wants to incorporate some temporary chicanes to slow the cars down (something recommended if this track ever considers bringing in motorcycle racing). After that hairpin leading onto the backstretch, the slipstream battles should be intense. This backstretch reminds me of the straights of the old Hockenheim. Only difference is that I don't think you'll have the big forest reverberating the sound of F1 cars blasting down the straights. After the backstretch, a very sharp left leads into a super-slow complex of corners. You leave this complex and pick up some extra speed in the remaining corners leading onto the final straight.

I would imagine that lap times around this track could range between 1:36 to 1:44 with speeds possibly reaching 180 mph or even 190 mph. It seems to be a very fast racing course with a healthy dosage of corners to keep any driver (let alone an F1 racer) on his/her toes. The track has character and flow to it. Maybe not the character of tracks like Suzuka or Spa-Francorchamps, but this track may be a lasting course for years to come.

A website is up to provide more resources on this new track, and you can get updates on the new track by visiting You can read this archived story from May 2010 for more information on this track and the return of F1 to the US. You can also follow the Grand Prix of Austin on Twitter.

Here are some resources for you with more info on all the F1 Austin news:
* Formula 1 United States Austin 2012 Official Site
* Circuit of the Americas Official Site
* "F1 Austin Track Gets a Name" on
* Autoweek's report on the Austin Grand Prix
* The Austin Grand Prix

* F1 Austin Facebook Fan Page
* Circuit of the Americas Facebook Fan Page
* Follow F1 United States on Twitter!
* Follow Circuit of the Americas on Twitter!

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