History was made this past weekend when Mario Andretti took to his Championship F1 winning Lotus 79 to officially declare the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track open.
And what a track it is. 3.4 miles long, a 130ft incline into a blind turn one hairpin and a back straight that had nearly every car hitting the redline in top gear.
Pirelli North America was kind enough to extend an invitation for us to experience the track in all of its new glory. Entering the massive compound you are greeted by a giant look out tower and the massive incline into turn one. Passing under the bridge to the infield suddenly you are transported into a Formula1 alternate universe. The facilities are squeaky clean and state of the art. The grand stands are just as big as the track itself. The moniker of “Everything is bigger in Texas” holds true in every facet of the facilities.
To kick the day off right we arrived just in time to see Mario Andretti, Patrick Dempsey and Jerome D’Ambrosio take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony on the Start/Finish line. Once the grid cleared from the hordes of media, us included, Andretti was underway in his Lotus 79 to take the first official laps of the Circuit of the Americas.
After his first few laps cars from various racing leagues began to enjoy exploring the track. Ferrari Challenge cars (one piloted by Patrick Dempsey), Ford SCCA GT cars, even a spec Miata joined in the fun. We were fortunate enough to snag a ride in a Ferrari FF, primarily because the racecars needed a break by the time our turn came up (check out the video of our lap at europeancarweb.com). What blistering fast and technical track COTA is. The elevation into the blind turn one is exhilarating. Moving through the chicanes just after turn two puts you right in the Formula1 frame of mind. COTA transforms your perspective on traditional American racetracks and makes you feel as if you have been transported to some of the best tracks around the world. Some portions of the course were mimicked after Hockenheim with a bit of Senna curves thrown in. The highlight of COTA is the back straight, where we reached near the top gear red line in our FF ride. We heard that the three-seat Jordan F1 car was hitting 160-180mph throughout the day.
What COTA brings to America is a newfound respect for global motorsports. While we still struggle, less now than in previous years, to find a place for Soccer (Football) we somehow always manage to find a way to bring the best motoring events into our country. With COTAs construction we have heard tale of WTCC, Australian Supercar V8, MotoGP and Le Mans making it one of its MUST RACE destinations in the coming seasons. For us, we couldn’t be happier! For the rest of the United States, it remains to be seen. But there is a certain buzz in the air we can’t help but enjoy, even if just for the moment.