The lone FIA-certified Grade 1 track in the United States, and one of only 26 Grade 1-certified motorsports facilities in the world, the Circuit of The Americas in the Lone Star State is in Project CARS 2, scanned in all its undulating, technical beauty
The Circuit of The Americas has more of a European flavor to it than a traditional US one, and the reason is simple enough; CoTA was conceived to bring Formula 1 back to the United States. With the final cost somewhere in the region of half-a-billion dollars, the quality of the venue comes as no surprise. The real surprise is the flowing, quick and undulating nature of the track that welcomed the world in 2012, a layout that immediately propelled the track into a very small and exclusive club of modern tracks that put a premium on both a driver’s ability and racing desire.
The track may be built around modern dictates—massive run-offs, media- and fan-friendly facilities (the ladies bathrooms even have full-time attendants during race weekends), and seating for over 120,000 fans—but the layout ensures the racing is always edgy, with some compelling late-braking opportunities along with rear-lightening exits over jaw-jarring kerbs.
CoTA is Texas-big, including a 251 foot observation tower with an amphitheater venue at its base that sports a roof meant to recreate the wash of tail-lights on a flat Texas road at night, and you’re going to find a track that will test your skills big-time too. It may only place seventh on the Formula 1 calendar when it comes to elevation change, but the 40 metre rise to the circuit’s signature Turn 1—this occurring in only a few hundred metres—is a roller coaster ride of note. You’re going to be a busy here, fully occupied with fast-flowing sweeps and difficult braking zones.
Finding the apex through Turn 1 will quickly separate the quick from the wannabe. The next 19 turns will do likewise, particularly the mighty run through Turns 3 through 6 (which is purposefully reminiscent of Silverstone’s Maggots and Becketts complex), and Turns 16 through 18 which mirror the famed (and perhaps CoTA track designer, Hermann Tilke’s, most lauded work) Istanbul Park’s multi-apex Turn 8.
It’s no surprise, then, to find that Tilke—or, to be more accurate, Christian Epp, one of Tilke Gmbh’s main designers—was the key man behind the track’s layout. He was joined, though, by legendary Texas motorbike star Kevin Schwantz, and local promoter (and one-time Formula 3 runner) Tavo Hellmund throughout the design phase, and their inputs have resulted in a track that is one part Tilke, and one part, well, perhaps not-so-much …
In terms of a pure challenge, CoTA has it all; cornering speeds, the counter-clockwise route, and the width of the track all ensuring the type of hard racing and inventive passing that have seen it develop into a popular venue. CoTA was a big win for both the developers and the local community who enjoy the commercial fruit of over a million visitors a year.
There were three elements that brought CoTA to life. One was the assurance of a US grand prix, the second was the availability of funds to build the facility (garnered from private investors including Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein, and supplemented by the state’s sporting fund), and the third was access to a purposefully chosen site—890 acres in Travis County, less than 15 miles from downtown Austin.
With all these elements in place, construction on the Circuit of The Americas began in 2011.
Hellmund was very much the inspirational figure behind the track; his vision, from the start, was to recreate many of the world’s best turns on one track. This was made possible by Tilke’s design company, Tilke Gmbh, being in on the project from the very start, even having a say in the land on which the track was to be built.
Hellmund had a list of ten classic turns he wanted to recreate at CoTA. Designer Christian Epp, though, quickly dampened that line of thought with some hard-spun truths, as he revealed to F1Fanatic.com. “Epp recalls [Hellmund saying]: ‘OK Christian, we want elements like Eau Rouge, we want the corkscrew, we want like Suzuka, we want Maggotts/Beckets section.’ [But] it’s not that easy. Once you want to incorporate one of these features, you’re very limited. You can do maybe three or four of these features, but for sure not 10. It would be, really, it would be a 30 or 40 mile long track if you tried to incorporate them all!”
The reason for that is simple; if you want to recreate a turn such as Eau Rouge, you need a long run to attain the speed into that turn—it’s not just a question of recreating the turn, but the speeds into the turns.
The track has gone on to host some classic showdowns since its debut race, with Turn 1 quickly establishing itself as a one of those archetypal do-or-die corners. It’s also the perfect turn for a characteristic switch-over going down the hill into the really quick entry into Turn 2. You’ll be spending a lot of time checking your mirrors coming into Turn 1; watching for the last of the late brakers barreling up the inside with four tyres locked solid is a solid way not to get involved in someone else’s wreck.
With LiveTrack 3.0, you’ll also be getting a sample of the end-of-the-world rains that have blighted many a race weekend since that first race, in particular the Halloween storms of 2015 that did significant damage to some of the facilities.
CoTA, in half-a-decade, has gone on to become one of the world’s premiere racing facilities, hosting dozens of prestigious races a year, including the US Grand Prix, Pirelli World Challenge, MotoGP, the FIA World Endurance Championship, Aussie V8s, and many more.
In terms of challenge, this track is a modern masterpiece. Safe but inspiring, it’s become a model for contemporary race-track design.