COTA Building Towards Formula One

Construction update at the Circuit of the Americas

The grandstands at the Circuit of the Americas. Along with the media center and the team garages, this is one of the permanent structures close to completion. (Photo by John Anderson)

The first US Grand Prix in Austin may not be until Nov. 18, but Management at the Circuit of the Americas know they only have a month and a half before their new track has to be ready for inspection.

During a media briefing at the track yesterday, the press were shown the current state of construction. The major structures, including the grand stand, the media center and the garages, are being finished, and the bulk of the track has had its first layer of pavement. The rest will have to be completed by Aug. 14, which is when the top surface will be laid, and that's the complicated bit.

Actually, it's the complicated resolution to a complicated process. The circuit is built on clay, so to create a track that won't shift or settle the construction team had to dig the whole track area out down 10 feet and line it with a 30mm black poly liner. The track was then filled in with aggregates selected by track designers Tilke GmbH, and is now being surfaced in sections. The top layer must be laid in one pass, and that will require two trucks, side by side, laying asphalt continuously around the 3.4 mile track, and a third for the broad passing points at the corner.

Work was also continuing on the steel viewing tower and the surrounding area, which will house the Tower Amphitheater, a 15,000 capacity outdoor venue. COTA announced a deal with Live Nation last week, but the venue is what is known as an open room, meaning other bookers will be able to rent the space.

However, the track management has to have construction priorities. The amphitheater does not have to open until next Spring. Meanwhile, the track and the related safety facilities have to the Feder­ation Internationale de l'Auto­mobile at least 60 days inspection before the Nov. 16-18 race weekend. FIA Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting is scheduled to make his pre-race visit on Sept. 25. Track management said they are extremely confident they will be ready in time, and said that Whiting had told them they were far ahead of where other recently constructed tracks were this close to the race.

The view from the top of turn one at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin's Formula One track. The steep rise into a sharp left is the track's signature design innovation. (Photo by John Anderson)

The view from the grid at the Circuit of the Americas, up the hill to the signature turn one. The grid and the stretch between turn 20 and turn one is the last segment of track still lacking the first layer of pavement. (Photo by John Anderson)

The hairpin bend at turn 11 of the Circuit of the Americas. The first layer of pavement has been laid, but a final level almost four inches deep and designed to withstand the high demands of Formula One racing, has yet to be laid. (Photo by John Anderson)

Pre-constructed egments of the viewing tower at the Circuit of the Americas sit waiting to be hoisted into place. The 250 viewing platform will stand over the track's purpose-built 15,000 capacity live music auditorium, the Tower Amphitheater. (Photo by John Anderson)

Work continues at the Circuit of the Americas. An estimated 700 workers and 25 subcontracting firms are working on the track during construction. (Photo by John Anderson)
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