U.S. Grand Prix update
Race to the finish line: The first look inside Circuit of the Americas
At Austin's Circuit of the Americas, the suites (that's plural) are huge — as they should be when they're built for Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
Walking through those suites, it's a bit hard to imagine 5,000 well-heeled folks flitting about inside them. The rooms are just 12 empty boxes right now — 160,000 square feet of boxes with a view (and carpet) — but, still, a box.
Even so, Bobby Epstein, the founder of Circuit of the Americas, and my host on this day, doesn't want any photos taken inside. He would prefer Ecclestone see his suites when they are finished, not during construction.
The Circuit of the Americas race track is beginning to look like the world-class venue everyone purports it will be.
Ecclestone and the Formula 1 teams will be outfitting the suites in the next few weeks. And by outfitting I mean everything from furniture to lamps and the art on the walls. It's how Formula 1 rolls. After the race, they'll pack it all up and move on to the next one. If you have the connections, a cool $5,000 will get you a seat.
The Circuit of the Americas race track is beginning to look like the world-class venue everyone purports it will be. The track is paved, the seats are being installed and grass is growing on the general admission berms. The lounges — no photos here either, please — are looking like they might be fun, and tickets are nearly sold out.
Construction crews are now working on a single eight-hour shift as opposed to the 24-hour schedule needed late in the summer to get the track set for paving and inspection. On September 25, Federation Internationale de l' Automobile race director Charles Whiting inspected the track and declared it "race-ready."
"Everything that I've seen so far has been absolutely first-class," he says.
Epstein's biggest worry continues to be rain. which slows construction, particularly for parking lots.
"We have four championship racing series committed before the track is even open," says Circuit of the Americas founder Bobby Epstein. "We may be the first track to do that."
Still, he's a lot less stressed than when I first met with him in the spring. He smiles more, jokes a little, and he is clearly excited about getting real race cars onto his newly paved track.
Some great news came on Wednesday when MotoGP agreed to race at Circuit of the Americas next April.
That race is now the fourth major championship series to commit, joining Formula 1, V-8 Supercars and the Le Mans World Endurance Championships. Now that the buildings have gone up, the asphalt has been laid, all the bank funding is done, and the lawsuits have settled (well, most of them, anyway), Epstein is thinking more about his track's place in the racing world than about what color seats to install.
It's the greatest racing schedule for a single circuit in the world, but Epstein is too humble to say it in that way.
"We have four championship racing series committed before the track is even open," he said. "We may be the first track to do that. We've created a year-round facility that will provide an economic impact that will equal the economic impact of Formula 1 weekend. We think we'll eclipse $600 million in economic impact in the first year."
The current schedule of races for Circuit of the Americas:
- November 16-18, 2012 — Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
- Spring 2013 (no date set) — American Le Mans series
- March 2, 2013 — GRAND-AM Road Racing series
- April 19-21, 2013 — MotoGP Motorcycle Grand Prix
- May 17-19, 2013 — V8 Supercars series