Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Friends and Fast Times at the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix

Formula04 My only experience with motor sports is my annual trip to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 and the IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway and I love every minute of it. I married into a racing family and prior to that I had zero interest in the sport. Thanks to my father-in-law I'm now an avid open-wheel racing fan. So when Formula 1 announced that they would be bringing a race back to the United States and that the track was going to be built near Austin, just three hours from my home in San Angelo, I had to be there. I immediately started looking into what it would take to add Formula 1 to my racing repertoire.

Formula 1 has not been run in the U.S. since 2007 and with the new track installment in Austin, it looks like a race will be run here for several years to come. The only thing I knew of the racing series is that it travels all over the world, it's very expensive to field a car and the names of the drivers are very hard to pronounce. That being said, I started to watch all the Formula 1 races leading up to the Austin race on television to try and learn the drivers' names and what their cars looked like so I could identify them from the stands.

I had originally anticipated on buying a three-day general admission pass into the track which would allow me to sit on the numerous grass berms around the circuit. But the day that I logged on the track's website to purchase my pass the general admission tickets had been sold out. Crap. The next cheapest pass was several hundred dollars more and track officials had sent out a notice that there would not be any RV camping allowed at this year's event. I was heart-broken. It looked like I was not going to be able to see the inaugural Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas. However, out of the goodness of his heart and the fact that there was not going to be any camping allowed, my father-in-law offered his ticket to me. Sweet! Austin, here I come.

Formula02 Formula10 Formula06 Formula07 Formula03 I drove in to Austin on Thursday night to meet up with my buddy Jeff who was flying in from Connecticut. I first met Jeff in 2006 when I attended my first Indy 500. Along with meeting up with Jeff, I was also going to meet two of his friends who live in Canada, Rich and Sue. I have to admit I was a little nervous about meeting Rich and Sue. I didn't want to come off as some dufus they would have to put up with over the next three days. But, I quickly learned that Rich and Sue (they're married by the way) are fellow citizens of Nerd-ville (or at least Rich is) and have a discriminating, some might call it snobbish, opinion on one of man's greatest inventions: beer. I knew we would be friends right away.

So for the next three days Jeff, Rich, Sue and I hit the road early to head out to the newly built Mecca of United States Formula 1 racing, the Circuit of the Americas. And when I say newly built, I mean the asphalt was still drying kind of newly built. Not really, but the track was finished maybe a month before the event. It still had that "new car" smell if you know what I mean. To put it simply, the track is beautiful. It's got everything you could want in a road course: elevation change, hairpin turns, a long straight-away and multiple passing areas.

We had a great time exploring the track. On Day 1 we went to almost every grandstand to see what the view would be like on other portions of the track. Our tickets had us sitting near the top of Turn 12. With maybe the exception of Turn 19, and that's a big maybe, Turn 12 was the best seat in the house. Day 2 was all about the Formula 1 qualifications and Day 3, of course, was all about the United States Grand Prix.

Formula09 Formula08 Formula11 Formula13 Formula12 This was to be my very first Formula 1 race as well as my first race to watch on a road course. I've always wondered how much of the race you actually get to see when you're watching a road race in person. But with our killer seats in Turn 12 we got the see the drivers decelerate from 200 mph to 30 mph in Turn 12, speed back up a bit to get through Turns 13 and 14, hit the brakes hard again for another tight left in Turn 15 and then finally accelerate and disappear into the fast Turn 16. And because of the elevation changes on the far side of the track, we could also see the cars head up the hill to Turn 1. It was awesome.

The race itself was a great experience. There was tight racing, several lead changes and, surprisingly, no crashes, especially since none of the drivers had been on the track for more than three practice sessions and one qualification session. Lewis Hamilton, who drives for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, ended up winning the race, his fourth win this season. But Hamilton wasn't the only winner that weekend. It was a win for the U.S., the State of Texas and the City of Austin to be able to host such a fantastic event. And, of course, it was a win for me. I got to witness the inaugural race weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, fulfill a dream of seeing a live Formula 1 race and I got to meet some new friends along the way.

Farm Road 812 Racing Club for life!


1 comment:

  1. Glad to see another Formula 1 race fan in San Angelo! I attended the 2007 F1 race at Indianapolis. I didn't attend the race in Austin due to schedule conflict but I am going to the Circuit of the Americas this weekend and doing a driving event on the track.

    Would anyone be interested in some F1 watching get-togethers in San Angelo next season? The F1 season starts in March...