The plans for the new F1 track outside of Austin, TX have been released. For the first time, there will be a purpose built, natural terrain road course for Formula 1 in the United States. There have been a number of F1 venues in the U.S., but previously they have utilized existing road courses normally used for sports cars (e.g. Watkins Glen), or makeshift affairs (the casino parking lot in Las Vegas), or street courses (Long Beach, CA), or hybrid layouts tacked onto existing facilities (Indianapolis).
But now, there will be a track in the Austin area that will be built expressly for Formula 1. It will be designed by chief Formula 1 track architect, Hermann Tilke, and juding from the plans, looks to be, as is typical of many Tilke-designed venues, a technical track, combining long straights and a mixture of turns that includes tight hairpins, high-speed sweepers and multiple-apex complexes.
From an aerial view, the track configuration resembles a tomahawk or a hammer. A side view, however, 133 feet of elevation changes are visible. The track will have a 1,200 meter main straight which will allow the cars to reach speeds of 200 mph. There will be enough seating to accommodate 1,400 fans.
Race promoter Tavo Hellmund recently told The American Statesman, “In the modern era of Grand Prix racing, I think this track layout and topography will be very special. It will have many of the elements of previous ‘classic’ circuits combined with the benefits of FIA-mandated safety for the competitors and spectators alike. Add in the amenities fans have come to expect, like rare, multiple-turn viewing opportunities for added value, and you have an ideal, world-class venue. For the competitors, we’ll have all the ingredients necessary. You’ll see fast turns that require commitment from the drivers and technical turns that will test the engineers from a set-up point of view. We have a good deal of elevation to make it not only scenic but challenging also, and the view of downtown Austin is wonderful as well.”
While many have been skeptical that an American promoter could get such a project off the ground, it seems as though certain parties within the F1 community are taking it very seriously, indeed. Surely, Hermann Tilke wouldn’t be devoting the resources of his firm to designing a track near Austin if it seemed like a mere fantasy. Likewise, Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has given the project his imprimatur, which surely wouldn’t happen if Bernie hadn’t been reasonably sure that the project could be brought to fruition.
The tentative plan is for the track to host its first F1 race in 2012, two years from now.