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Austin moving closer to completion

The US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas is gradually coming together, ahead of its return to the schedule in November.
It may appear beset with wrangling and disputes, but the Circuit of the Americas seems set to avoid a repeat of the rush to be ready that surrounded both the similarly 'ground-up' venues built for the Korean and Indian grands prix.

Both Asian venues faced a race against time to be ready to host the F1 circus and, in Korea's case, was still putting important final touches to the circuit as the cars prepared to venture out for practice. Austin's latest sporting centrepoint could easily have gone the same way, with financial disagreements and a run of bad weather seeing the construction teams down tools at the end of 2011, but a concerted effort has turned things around in the months since.

When FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting visited in the days after June's Canadian Grand Prix, he was satisfied with the stage the build process had reached, but confirmed that he would return at the end of August, and then again in late September, to pass final judgement on the facility ahead of its championship debut in mid-November, as the penultimate round of the 2012 schedule.

"It is clear that the significant resources Circuit of the Americas has committed to completing this facility on time and to FIA specifications is making a difference," Whiting told Reuters at the time, "More than 500 construction workers are on site daily are making great progress, and I plan to return to Austin at the end of August for an update. I believe Circuit of the Americas has the ability to put on a great show and spectacular grand prix in its inaugural year."

Since Whiting's visit, more of the circuit has been laid, although there is more still to do, and key permanent structures – including the pits, main grandstand and media centre – now moving into the 'furnishing' stage after construction ended. Other elements of the venue, including a 23-story observation tower - which will stand over the recently-announced 15,000-capacity Tower Amphitheatre entertainment arena - are still under construction and, while not likely to be ready for the race, are not essential parts needing completion ahead of Whiting's return, which will focus on the ability to run a race safely.

Focus has also been turned on coping with the expected audience expected to watch the race in person from the spaces around the 3.4-mile layout. The circuit is reckoning on around 300,000 people attending across the three days of the meeting, and road developments - many of them contentious - are being finished. Perhaps as a result of a delegation attending last month's British Grand Prix, however, more provisions are still being put on the table in an effort to make visiting CotA as pleasurable as possible.

The rain-affected Silverstone event was plagued by road chaos as organisers attempted to re-route fans away from flooded fields that were to double as car parks and campsites and, while not expecting the same sort of conditions, Travis County commissioners have approved an amendment to previous traffic plans to include a new four-lane access road linking the circuit to highway SH71 to get traffic in and out more easily. The cost of the project is estimated at $48.7m, and will complement the use of shuttles running to and from the circuit, but the Silverstone visit has also prompted consideration of 'contingency measures' such as contraflow systems and dedicated access lanes.

Entertainment away from the racing is also taking shape, with events both close to the CotA facility and in downtown Austin, several miles away, although Austin City Council has yet to light the green light on an F1-related festival/concert - Formula Fest - until later this month. Festival organisers are seeking road closures in order to stage the event.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Aerial view of the Circuit of the Americas
Ambassador Mario Andretti at Circuit of the Americas   [pic credi: Circuit of the Americas]
Start-finish line rendering - Circuit of the Americas
25.11.2016 - Free Practice 2, Circuit Atmosphere
25.11.2016 - Free Practice 1, Circuit Atmosphere
24.11.2016 - Circuit Atmosphere
24.11.2016 - Circuit Atmosphere
13.11.2016 - Race, Circuit Atmosphere
11.11.2016 - Free Practice 2, Circuit Atmosphere
10.11.2016 - Interlagos circuit Atmosphere
10.11.2016 - Interlagos circuit atmosphere
10.11.2016 - Interlagos Circuit detail
10.11.2016 - Interlagos Circuit detail
10.11.2016 - Interlagos Circuit detail
23.10.2016 - Race, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid race winner
23.10.2016 - Race, 1st position Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid, 2nd position  Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid and 3rd position Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12
23.10.2016 - Race, 2nd position Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid race winner
23.10.2016 - Race, 3rd position Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12

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August 04, 2012 3:01 AM

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