Charlie White from Austin is back with a new trip report on his home Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. He wasn’t planning to go this year, but who’s going to turn down a pair of free tickets in the Main Grandstand?
This is my third USGP at COTA and it was the best race of the season! The weather played a huge factor but, if there’s any doubt that Formula 1 can’t grow in the USA, this race proved the opposite.
As the race weekend neared, it was apparent that weather would be a factor this year. A good friend called on Thursday and informed me she had a ticket for Sunday. In fact, she had tickets for all 3 days but neither of us could make it on Friday or Saturday.
Even the best-laid plans often fall short and the organizers at Circuit of the Americas did the best they could in the face of very bad weather. Four large grassy car parks around the track were closed and the closest alternative off-site parking had moved to another location. The organizers told fans to park in downtown Austin near the Convention Center and ride the shuttle buses to the track. Without a pre-paid parking pass, this bus ride set us back $25 per person, which was an unexpected expense.
We were dropped off at the main plaza, nowhere near the Main Grandstand. So we walked the not inconsiderable distance. Most of the pathways around the track are unsealed gravel, which became muddy from the rain. We missed both Qualifying and the Porsche Supercar events.
Food stands and merchandise stands were all located close together unlike past years, when they were separate and far apart. Restroom facilities were also improved from past years; there were more of them and they were better located, closer to the larger grandstands. There were still lines but wait times were much shorter.
The pre-race festivities were lacking because of the weather. The US Army Black Knights paratrooper team did not perform. Only the drum corps from Texas Southern University performed, along with the NFL Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Thankfully, the rain stopped 30 minutes before the start of the race start. After the race, we did the track walk to the Elton John concert site, which was held on the track infield between Turns 11 and 12 rather than at the amphitheater under the COTA tower.
How much did your day out at the US Grand Prix cost?
The tickets in the main grandstand had a list price of US $475 each, but we got those free from a good friend. We paid $50 for two tickets on the COTA shuttle and my friend bought some food, which probably cost about $40 total.
Any advice for fans planning to attend?
I think COTA finally have a handle on all aspects of the race weekend and the huge crowds that the race attracts. I heard once again that Austin is a difficult destination to reach for international fans and I repeat this advice to them: fly into San Antonio or Houston instead of Dallas or Austin direct.
Hotel rooms are still expensive and scarce on race weekend, but that isn’t surprising when the race is scheduled on the same weekend as University of Texas home football games. I recommend searching for hotels in nearby San Marcos, Round Rock and Georgetown.