With the Inaugural FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX under our collective belt, the second F1 race will soon usher in new and repeat visitors to the Lone Star State. With more hospitality and entertainment options than last year, we wanted to help our readers navigate the F1 landscape with experts in the industry. For this first interview, we turned to a seasoned F1 hospitality company, US Star Events, to learn more about their experiences, offerings and expectations for year two. In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, we’ll bring you more insight into specific events as you'll be sure to stay entertained while in Austin.
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Circuit of the Americas
This weekend, May 3rd and 4th, the V8 Supercars are in Perth, Western Australia, competing in the last races Down Under before they pack their bags (and two Jumbo Jets’ worth of cars and equipment) and head to the Austin, Texas, y’all. In two short weeks from now, Circuit of The Americas will host the Thunder from Down Under in the Austin 400 on May 17th-19th.
Awesome. Incredible. The ride of a lifetime. These are just a few adjectives that come to mind after a hot lap of Circuit of The Americas in a V8 Supercar:
Well over 600 horsepower in a car that weighs 3100lb – including the driver – makes for an exciting ride. A full field of 28 of these fire-breathing monsters from Down Under makes for a weekend you won’t want to miss.
V8 Supercars – the premiere racing series in Australia and New Zealand – has expanded its horizons overseas in recent years, and next month they will race on US soil for the first time ever, at Circuit of The Americas on May 17-19.
To generate some buzz among the spectators and motoring media, the V8 Supercars controlling body sent one of their cars to COTA several weeks ago – in fact, those of you that attended the MotoGP race last weekend have seen it turning a few demonstration laps between bike sessions. And once the motorcycle crowds had gone home, they invited the media to the track to meet the car, the organizers, and a couple of the regular championship drivers: James Courtney and Fabian Coulthard. (Yes, Fabian is related to that other Coulthard – he and David are second cousins.)
Some of you may have seen these cars on TV before. SPEED TV has been showing highlights packages of each round for the last couple of years, and I understand they will actually be broadcasting the “Austin 400” live from Austin. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, take a look at this highlights package from the 2012 season to get some idea of what we can expect to see:
For more than a decade, the series has been the exclusive realm of Ford and GM, represented by the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore respectively, but this year the series has once again been opened up to other manufacturers, and Nissan and Mercedes have already joined the fray with their Altima and E63 AMG.
US enthusiasts may recognize the Holden Commodore as the basis for the Pontiac G8 of a couple of years ago, and it will be making its reappearance in American showrooms later this year as the new Chevrolet SS. The rivalry between the two brands is ingrained in Aussie enthusiasts – you’re born Red or Blue and you stay that way for life, and fans have reacted with outrage and disgust if a driver “defects” from one camp to the other.
In recent years the cars have only used a few common components – most notably the transmissions and live rear axles – but for 2013 the category has moved to a more standardized platform in an attempt to reduce costs and increase competition. They call it the Car of the Future, and it utilizes a single common chassis, engine management system, drive train, independent rear suspension, brakes, and tires. The teams then graft on a modified production four-door body shell, and drop in a 5 liter (305 cu.in.) V8 motor from their respective manufacturer.
Limited to 7500 rpm by the spec Motec ECU, the official horsepower estimates are 625bhp, but it’s widely accepted that most of them are pumping out more like 650.
With the major components tightly controlled, the cars all perform very similarly. Indeed, at one of the most recent rounds in Australia, the entire field qualified within 0.8 seconds of the pole sitter. The organizers work hard to maintain this sort of parity, and have the ability to tweak the aero packages if necessary. However, unlike the British Touring Car Championship, there is no “success ballast” added between races.
With cars that closely matched, the emphasis is placed squarely on the drivers, and these guys are not afraid of a little bump and grind. It’s close, full-contact racing from flag to flag, guaranteed to keep to on the edge of your seat or on your feet.
In a nod towards the environment, the entire field runs on a spec BioEthanol E85 race gas produced from the molasses which is a byproduct of Australia’s extensive cane sugar production. We noticed that this gives the cars a very distinctive exhaust smell. The fuel is tightly controlled, and around 4,000 gallons have already landed in Houston en route to Austin for the race weekend.
The cars and equipment travel in two 747 freighter planes, and the teams and travelling media circus comprise around 400 people. Also descending on Austin will be an estimated 3,000 fans making the trip from Down Under for the race, so expect to hear a lot of “far south Texas” accents in town that weekend. There’s no organized downtown festival like there was for Formula 1, but Aussies know how to have a good time – it’s in their DNA – so watch out for some hard partiers on Sixth Street. Say “G’day,” but don’t challenge any of them to a drinking competition!
// Check out a gallery of Jon's photos by clicking HERE.
Repsol Honda Team's Marc Márquez becomes the youngest ever MotoGP winner in Austin
The checkered flag was waved at the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas in Austin as Repsol Honda Racing's Marc Márquez takes the win and earns a new title: the youngest ever MotoGP winner. The 20-year-old rising star has put on an incredible performance this weekend in what was only his second MotoGP race of his career. This stellar jump to the top of the pack has made him a fan favorite and puts him in the fight for the championship title this year.
Following behind Márquez, Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo secured second and third in the race, respectively. The race started as it finished for the top three riders, although a poor start by Márquez left him fighting Pedrosa until lap 13 when he made a move into Turn 7. The two Hondas, battling it out in front, showed off their dominating performance this weekend as the gap with Lorenzo in third position grew with each of the twenty-one total laps.
Following the race, Márquez shared his enthusiasm for his new record as youngest MotoGP winner, an impressive crown previously held by American Freddie Spencer in 1983. When asked about his thoughts on today's race, Márquez said:
After taking my first podium in Qatar I was very happy, but I am even more so today after my first win! It went better than I expected and I am very grateful to the team for their efforts over the preseason; we have worked very hard and, without this, the victory would not have been possible. The race was very intense and physical, as I followed Dani for many laps and then decided to launch an attack and try to open a gap with ten laps to go. I could not pull the gap I wanted as some problems emerged that we’d experienced throughout the weekend. Despite all this, we were able to take the victory. The 25 points are important, but what is more important is to have achieved a win in my second race in MotoGP. We realise that more difficult circuits lie ahead for us, but we will try to give 100% at all of them. Our battle is not the one for the championship, but rather taking it race-by-race and enjoying every moment.
Today's race was not only a great event overall but will likely help propel Márquez into the spotlight for the remainder of the year. Earning a podium finish in his first event at Qatar and then a win here in Austin, Márquez has solidified his position as a serious fighter who is willing to take risks and challenge the many more experienced riders on the track. With 16 races left in the season there remain many challenges for the young rider, but this notch in his belt is one that will is remembered forever.