COTA–The Place to be in September and October
From this weekend’s “Lone Star Le Mans” to the mid-October running of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, America’s “Live Music Capital of the World” (a.k.a. Austin, Texas) becomes an area of intense focus for motorsports aficionados the world over. It all happens at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, a five-year old multipurpose entertainment facility set on 890 acres and featuring a 3.4 mile, 20-turn F1-approved race course.
Since it’s October 2012 opening, COTA has hosted a variety of speed-related events, including the FIM Road Racing World Championship series, FIA World Endurance Championship, Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Rolex Sports Car Series Grand-Am of the Americas, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Summer X Games. The event scheduled to launch tomorrow–the Lone Star Le Mans–and the October 20-22 U.S. Grand Prix, are two of the big events that promise to draw thousands to the central Texas facility.
Circuit of the Americas
COTA was first announced in July of 2010, with construction beginning later that year. With an elevation of 133 feet, the 20-turn race course is one of only a handful on the Formula One calendar to be run counter-clockwise, the others being Marina Bay, the Korea International Circuit, Yas Marina, and Interlagos. Because of this, the circuit contains more left-hand turns than right-hand ones, placing greater physical demands on the drivers whose bodies, particularly their necks, are more adapted to the lateral g-forces of clockwise circuits. This weight-shifting change can be particularly demanding for drivers unaccustomed to the predominance of high-speed left-hand turns.
Within its confines, the COTA layout includes a 20-acre Grand Plaza containing concessions, restroom facilities, and entrances to spectator seating, along with pedestrian bridges crossing the race course. The venue’s most prominent landmark is its 251-foot high Observation Tower that can accommodate 70 people, with glass railings and a partial glass floor. COTA’s Austin360 Amphitheater is built at the base of the Observation Tower, and hosts a variety of shows with a capacity of 14,000 attendees.
COTA’s Main Grandstand has seating for roughly 9,000 spectators on its three levels and has concessions, restrooms, offices, and two lounge spaces to accommodate visitors. Completing the COTA complex (at least for now) will be a new soccer-specific stadium to be built adjacent to the Grand Plaza. Plans are in effect for a professional soccer team in the United Soccer League to begin using the facility in 2019.
The Lone Star Le Mans Event
This excerpt from COTA’s website provides a succinct overview of this weekend’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) event: “For nearly a century, the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans has been endurance racing’s main event, a festival experience unlike any other in motorsports. It’s about time we bring that tradition to Texas. Join FIA World Endurance Championship and Circuit of The Americas as the Spirit of Le Mans takes over Austin this fall for a thrilling weekend of speed culminating in six hours of world class endurance racing. The world’s finest automotive manufacturers and drivers, the same stars and cars that battle for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour classic, will duke it out over two full days at WEC’s only stop in the United States! Fans of all ages will enjoy unrivaled access to teams and drivers, gorgeous sight lines from each of COTA’s iconic grandstands, an open paddock, and grid walks. Every guest is invited to be on the grid before the start of the six hour WEC main event.”
Additional details about the Lone Star Le Mans event can be accessed here…
The F1 United States Grand Prix Event
Another excerpt from the COTA website highlights the essence of the October 20-22 Grand Prix event: “After a legendary, record-breaking run in 2016, the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX is back for more speed, more thrills, and more music! Experience the power of motorsport’s premier series, witness the passion and intensity of the world’s greatest drivers, and dance along to two of the most acclaimed and decorated performers of all time. World-class racing and entertainment combine for the can’t-miss party of the year, and it only happens this fall at Circuit of The Americas.”
For a preview of the event, including some excellent footage of the racing venue itself, check out this page on the COTA website.