In getting back to real life, I’m back to the usual grind with school and research. That means having time for fun things again! So when the opportunity presented itself, I went to see the practice runs at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin’s Formula One track.
I had never been to any kind of race live and I might now be spoiled by the CotA. They call the place a “campus” and it’s enormous. We parked in a nearby field and took a “shuttle” (read: guy in his Texas-sized truck) to the track. Once inside we had to check a map to find Turn 15, where our seats were. Along the way, there were plenty of spectacles.
Our seats had a view of the end of a straightaway and several quick turns following. It ended up being a great place to see some action.
First up were the Formula One cars. This was the practice run for the next day’s qualifying and the subsequent race, so the drivers were taking it easy. I found out later that most were getting used to having harder tires for this particular track. Wikipedia’ing from the stands also revealed that CotA is one of only two Formula One tracks with left-hand turns, so the drivers were undoubtedly trying to get the feel for that, too.
We knew nothing of Formula One, but had learned in the shuttle that Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes racing team was obviously the frontrunner. To add to the intrigue, Hamilton’s teammate, Nico Rosberg, was a close second. Rosberg ended up qualifying in front of his old buddy–they raced go carts together as kids–but (spoiler!) Hamilton pulled it out on race day.
Watching the Formula One cars go around was fun, but the highlight of the day was definitely the Porsche trials that came after. There were about 25 porsches on the track as opposed to the 12 Formula One cars, which made for more bumper cars. We also learned the Porsche drivers were all amateurs, either new to driving or new to Porsches.
Let’s just say this made for fun times.
The drivers were consistently veering off track at our turn, tearing up the astroturf which the road crew soon removed entirely.
Several times, cars spun out at the end of the straightaway, not having slowed down enough to enter the turn. At one point, a car managed to leave the track while still ON the straightaway, obliterated a paper sign, spun into a gravel pit after a failed effort to stop, and then became thoroughly lodged in the gravel when he tried to drive out. When the tow truck came to remove the vehicle, there was so much gravel in the wheel well that the back tires wouldn’t turn.
Some towing and gravel removal was all it took to get him back on track, though. Not too often that the drivers have to think about merging back onto the track, I imagine…
I’ve heard watching cars go in circles can be boring, but this experience was a lot of fun. Apparently you can pay for the experience of driving on the CotA track, which I may have to look into at some point.
Hopefully I won’t take out a sign in the process.
All in all, a quality afternoon spent with fancy cars and fancy people. I’ll leave you with this Bugatti, named Car of the Decade in the 2000’s by Top Gear.