This piece on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA)was originally published in September 2013, in advance of the first races at the circuit. It is republished here for background on this weekend’s TUDOR Series and WEC races at COTA.
What is most interesting about Circuit of the Americas from a track design/layout perspective is that it combines influences from some of the great and classic turns at other world-famous circuits, most notably the Istanbul F1 track’s Turn 8 (an internationally renowned four apex corner) , and the Maggos-Becketts-Chapen sequence at Silverstone. 
“ get in the car,
we can ride it
Wherever you want
Get inside it
And you want to steer
But I’m shifting gears
I’ll take it from here (oh Yeah)”
–“Moves Like Jagger”, Maroon 5
The speed limit on the toll road to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is 85MPH.
Seems appropriate.
In Texas, it’s always go big or go home.
This applies to football, speed limits, oil prospecting, hair, and race circuits.
At the Circuit of the Americas, they went big. This isn’t just a race track—some asphalt out in the boonies with sketchy facilities and distance from the city—it’s a major world sports event venue, and it all came to pass in just a few short years.
The Circuit of the Americas is unique among American racing tracks—even among world race tracks—because of its dramatic history and stellar facilities.
The track was built specifically to host an F1 race. To bring F1 racing back to America.  Which it did, in November of 2012, when the Formula One United States Grand Prix was held at the circuit. To get the F1 race on the schedule, a commitment of time, intelligence, money, and drive that was unprecedented in Texas sports circles was required.
That initial F1 race was a huge milestone for the track, in every way. It was the opening event for the track and, as such, was a little like having your first football game be as quarterback in the Superbowl.
But they pulled it off, in front of the world and a very critical group of participants: the F1 Teams.
And they went big.
The F1 race in Austin was voted the “Sporting Event of the Year” by 2013 SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Business Awards. It attracted over 265,000 people over the inaugural F1 weekend. The impact on the economy and culture of Austin was palpable and important. The entire story of how the track came to be is worthy of a novel, but the shorthand of the narrative is that a dedicated team of expertise, influence, political power, and money combined to build a brand new world class track complete with every possible modern amenity and facility, where there once was only undeveloped pasture and farmland.
The founding group behind the track first successfully negotiated a deal with Bernie Ecclestone–with mandatory performance goals in the timeline–to return F1 racing to America and to Austin specifically, and then, after a delay or two, pulled it all off on schedule, in rather spectacular fashion. It’s not an easy thing to do, hosting an F1 race, as some guys on the East Coast who thought of organizing one in New Jersey found out when their project flamed out.
The track that is the setting for this weekend’s round of the American Le Mans Series its is 3.427 miles long, laid out to take advantage of the natural contours and curves of the land by German designer/architect Hermann Tilke.
The Circuit of the Americas project was not Tilke’s first rodeo: he also designed Sepang, Shanghai, Yas Marina, Istanbul, Bahrain, Yeongam and Buddh as well as making some mods to the existing Hockenheimring and Fuji Speedway circuits. For the Circuit of the Americas, Tilke’s signature design feature is, for me at least, the first turn, which comes at the end of the Main Grandstand uphill straight that is home to the start/finish line.It’s a sharp turn, with a blind left handed exit and focuses the action and driver’s attention very sharply, especially important at the start of the race when all the cars power up the hill and then scramble for the line to get through Turn 1
What is most interesting about Circuit of the Americas from a track design/layout perspective is that it combines influences from some of the great and classic turns at other world-famous circuits, most notably the Istanbul F1 track’s Turn 8 (an internationally renowned four apex corner) , and the Maggos-Becketts-Chapen sequence at Silverstone.
There have been some who criticize Tilke for producing “replica corners” but others appreciate his references to the sport’s iconic turns and geometry. Tilke’s strength is in combining a deep understanding of signature and technical corners in a track with facilities that work for fans and teams and utilize the landscape to optimum design advantage.  One area of his designs that is very interesting is the use of wider approaches to a corner, to encourage the development of multiple lines through the radius. If the corner approach is too tightly constricted, the line is determined perhaps a bit too much by track architecture; with more pavement to work with, the drivers can be more creative in their approach.
What surrounds and supports the track is just as astonishing as the track itself. Motor racing is an old sport, and so most of the historical tracks have developed their facilities over decades. Adding more paddock space and garages, an emergency center, luxury suites, a media center over years, even decades of use.
They did it the Texas way at Circuit of the Americas.
Build it all at once and they will come and race and build they did. A major league media center, with enough computer and data processing capabilities to handle a 21st Century racing event (the server room is glass enclosed, just to get the point across), Grandstands (both temporary and permanent), luxury suites in all the right vantage points, a performance amphitheater for those weeks when no racing is on the schedule (Maroon 5 performed live on Wednesday of this week), a 250 foot high observation tower (great for photographers), a beautiful and clean line of paddocks and pits , with ample parking for the big racing transporters, an Emergency Center and Helicopter Pad, and a massive compliment of Concession and Bathroom Buildings.
It is as if it all fell from the sky, complete, ready to rock on November 18th, 2012, when the Grand Prix circus came to town and the track and event were put to the test by a race that draws more people in person than a Superbowl.
And it all worked.
The estimated cost of the Circuit of the Americas was $400 million.
Everyone got their money’s worth—owners, fans,  teams and media.
As a Texas team, Risi Competizione is intimately familiar with COTA. We have tested at the track, provided cars and drivers for some of the opening and celebratory events, and hosted client days for Ferrari owners.
COTA is in Texas, it’s magnificent, it represents the sport of motor racing very, very well, and we know it and are comfortable here.
Will we have a “home court advantage” at COTA?
Such an advantage exists only in the first few days of an event. Professional teams get the lay of the land very quickly and by race time, everyone is pretty much on the same page, all the secrets are revealed, and the race reverts to racing fundamentals: have a fast car driven by fast drivers; don’t make mistakes; don’t crash.
What should we expect for the Risi Comp No. 62 Ferrari 458?
Well….we’re already home. Might as well go big.

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