The races are all complete, and the racers, crews, and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) officials are all on their respective journeys to the next things they have to do during this last week of October, 2013. The great majority of the racers are not and never have been professional race car drivers, after all. Many are not yet retired from their day jobs either, and must return to full-time work that requires not a little bit of their attention and to families, some of whom merely tolerate rather than actively participate in their rigorous sport and hobby. However, for several days last week ending on Sunday, these people were able to jump in race cars of various vintages and have a go on one of the most famous racetracks in the world right now -- the new site of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
For race results, click here.
According to SVRA, over 500 cars spanning more than 100 years of history took to the track this weekend in Austin. After test and practice days, a full schedule of qualifying, feature, and enduro races ran all day Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spectators grew in number as the weekend went on, made obvious by the increasing number of cars in the huge parking lot at the track's main entrance. With general admission tickets in hand, spectators spread themselves out around the track -- in the stands, in the paddock, checking out views from the inside and outside that they might only dream about when experiencing an F1 contest there when access is much more restricted. One car enthusiast commented that the quality in terms of number, kinds, and vintages of cars at this event rivaled the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, a popular and large vintage event held earlier in the year in Monterey, California.
The drivers, many of whom have been racing cars for decades at older tracks around the country and even the world, had mixed reactions about the course itself. One racer said the new pavement is "as smooth as a pool table" but another complained about where the morning sun sat right on the top of Turn 1, blinding him in his early morning practice and qualifying sessions. Since he was learning the track for the first time, he said, it was bad enough that he didn't know where he was going, but the sun made it such that he couldn't see either.
Other racers commented on the number of turns at COTA exceeding the typical number they experience at other tracks. The camber of the track is another challenge, added one experienced racer. Asked what effect he noticed about driving an older race car on a new track designed for current Formula 1 cars, the racer said that the track was very hard on his brakes. The average speed of the circuit is slower than some of these racers are used to as well, due to the number of slow hairpin and decreasing-radius corners.
Most racers Rochester Motorsports spoke with enjoyed the experience of racing on the track at COTA more than the competition itself. They are more familiar with the courses they typically race on, so the competition is more serious there, they said. Here, most were learning the circuit, and despite their level of preparation, no one knew quite what to expect.
Even so, the racers Rochester Motorsports followed throughout the weekend readily improved their lap times each session and some made good passes and improved positions in ways that pleased them in their post-race analyses. Most agreed that racing for the first time at COTA was a satisfying way to end their 2013 race seasons.
The success of this event has already landed Circuit of the Americas on SVRA's 2014 schedule. The dates are October 15-19, 2014, again just a few short weeks ahead of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix there.
This year's U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas will take place November 15-17.
SVRA will begin its 2014 season with a possible first race in Nevada and then the Spring Vintage Classic at Sebring in late February.
For race results, click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. is the author of several books and is a Formula 1 and historic/vintage racing enthusiast. With her writing partner, a historic racer, she is working on a new book about the sport. Connie occasionally muses about motor racing and related topics at her blog, Motor Sport Muse.