The big TEXAS weekend is finally here!
The V8 Supercar series heads over the Pacific Ocean to the sixth overseas location in the category’s history for the Austin 400 at the Circuit of the Americas. The aim of the game? To show our Stateside cousins what the world of V8 Supercars is all about. Panel contact included.
Built to host the Formula 1 and the Moto GP, the Circuit of the Americas is a brand new track full of more twist and turns than an episode of Midsummer Murders. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead this weekend…(and Monday, due to the time difference!).
|2013 V8 SUPERCARS AUSTIN 400
|Date:||17-19 May 2013|
|Venue:||Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America|
|Race Lap Record:||Not established|
|Event Schedule*:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:10-10:40|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:40-12:10|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:55-15:25|
|Free Practice Session 4||Fri 16:15-16:45|
|Race 13 Qualifying||Sat 11:05-11:20|
|Race 14 Qualifying||Sat 11:30-11:45|
|Race 13 (27 laps, 100km)||Sat 15:15-16:00|
|Race 14 (27 laps, 100km)||Sat 17:00-17:45|
|Race 16 Qualifying||Sun 11:05-11:20|
|Race 17 Qualifying||Sun 11:30-11:45|
|Race 16 (27 laps, 100km)||Sun 15:15-16:00|
|Race 17 (27 laps, 100km)||Sun 17:00-17:45|
* Times are quoted at Central Daylight Time (GMT -6 hours)
The Circuit of the Americas is a purpose built Formula 1 track, debuting for the F1 round in November 2012. The reception was overwhelmingly positive from the F1 drivers at the time, and its seems that the V8 drivers are finding it just as exciting!
The race this weekend will use the shorter 2.3 mile (3.7 km) ‘National’ circuit, instead of the longer 3.4 mile (5.47 km) full Grand Prix track. The weekend will be run in the 2 x 100km format, with two races on Saturday and two on Sunday (US time).
Designed by the famous Hermann Tilke (designer of the F1 tracks in Sepang, Shanghai, Instanbul and Bahrain among others) as well as Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwantz, the track is full of various winding corners and an overall elevation change of 41m. The circuit also features an interesting feature in the widening of corners, encouraging drivers to take multiple racing lines.
It is said to be a European style circuit, with lots of fast, flowing and challenging features including the uphill first turn coming into a tight first corner.
“Turn one is exciting, you get the negative Gs going up and up and up and you brake later and later and later and still get to the point where you can go further. We are still finding that point, but it’s a great feeling going up and then you have got to get the car stopped and then you go back down. The run down into turn two is so fast, you’re just pulling gears. It’s great!” said Craig Lowndes after some time on the track.
The excited sentiment has been echoed throughout the grid. It is definitely a circuit with attitude, and that is something the drivers love.
It is an exhausting track, with almost ‘no rest’ reflects Chuck Aksland, vice-president of COTA’s motorsport operations.
"You come through the esses and you hang this left … and Turn 12 is there. The only time you have any break is down the front straight."
Bigger kerbs (10-11 cm high!) have also been installed to stop the cars cutting corners, similar to the solution used for the Gold Coast 600.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Championship leader Jamie Whincup is still a strong favourite for the top podium spot this weekend.
Not only has the team’s form been fine – it seems Red Bull Racing have found their footing this season after the Chilli Perth 360 – but his record on overseas races is unrivalled. Whincup has won 16 of the last 24 races offshore: a whopping two thirds.
Whincup is a little more reticent to call it though.
“I have got to admit I am probably the least prepared I have been for a long time so I’ll go out there on Friday and learn the circuit, and if I can run in the 10 I will be happy,” Whincup said on Thursday.
Does this offer some hope to his rivals then?
It will definitely give a boost to Ford Pepsi Max Crew driver Mark Winterbottom who will be gunning for a first place position. Winterbottom hasn’t seen the top podium spot for a year, although he has come close numerous times this season. He currently sits ninth in the championship.
Erebus is another team whose form has looked growingly good over the past few races. They are hoping to compete just outside the top ten this weekend, and to crack that barrier consistently by the end of the year.
Team Manager David Stuart reported that developments in the AMG engine package – including switching to an eight butterfly manifold system – has sharpened responsiveness and helped smoothen the throttle at the entry and through the middle of the corner. Given the CofA’s numerous turns, this increase in driveability will help the E63 significantly.
The issue of tyres won’t be as strategically important as it has been for the last races as only the Dunlop hards will be utilised. The organisers, originally considering a mixed tire race, decided on a cautious approach for the circuit’s debut appearance on the calender.
On a more glib note, Will Davison reckons he’s got it covered:
I won the 2013 F1 world championship on my PS3, so I reckon I’ve got Austin, Texas nailed! It’s got ups, it’s got downs, it’s got chicanes; it seems like it’s got a massive amount of character.
Have a listen to that and other comments from drivers here:
The V8 supercars are hoping for a big crowd this weekend, and given the fact that the Americans love their 8 cylinders and their loud engines, numbers are expected to be ‘pretty good’. Mark Skaife, the current V8 Supercars commission chairman, knows the importance of an exciting debut weekend.
“We believe that if you take it (V8 Supercars) to the right place, people will follow,” he said.
“I’m a firm believer that if you take it to places like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and you don’t have people there that actually appreciate it, it isn’t the best thing for the business.
A lot hinges on the numbers this weekend! Word is that there are possibly 2000 Australians that have also flown over to Austin for the race, including 40 media personnel. It should be noted that previous crowd numbers for other races have included as high as 265,000 for the Formula 1 and as low as 28,000 for the Grand Am. The Moto GP attracted a respectable 130,000.
More than just numbers hinge on this weekend. Given that the United States is a huge domestic market, particularly for Motorsport, a big debut weekend is an important part in perhaps attracting a fifth manufacturer to the sport, as well as helping to increase the exposure of the four road cars’ brands and presence. It’s a strategically important showing on many different levels…
Looks like, in typical US fashion, it will be a big event all round! Stay tuned to RichardsF1.com for all the news over the weekend!