Posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:13 AM
Friday, Nov 16 at 12:14 PM
ELROY, Texas -- Engines are roaring at the Circuit of the Americas track in Elroy. At 9 a.m. Friday morning Formula 1 drivers started racing down the course, marking the start of their practice runs for the U.S. Grand Prix.
“This is my first time at a Formula 1. I'm just excited to be here. It's gorgeous. It really is. It's a lot of fun being here,” said Connie San Juan of Illinois.
COTA is expecting between 40,000 and 50,000 people to attend the practice runs on Friday, another 60,000 to 80,000 for Saturday’s qualifiers and between 110,000 and 120,000 for Sunday’s race.
On Friday the first of the fans began lining up for the gates to open. Fans came in from across the world. For some it's a first time experience.
“I don't know what to expect, but my heart is kind of pounding right now just looking at it because this is fantastic. This is my first Formula 1 race ever,” said Anthony Chung from London, England.
Other fans have watched F1 before, but each track is different and everyone's ready to see what's in store with the track in Elroy.
“I'm off the wall. This is like a life-long dream. I've been talking about this for a couple of years now and I intend to see every bit of the track. We'll walk around this whole thing before the weekend is over,” said Norman Cavallaro of Connecticut.
The COTA track is 3.4 miles long and includes 20 turns and some steep climbs.
“[The track is] stunning; stunning! I drove by here a year and a half ago and it was just dirt,” described Clay Taylor of Corpus Christi. “I've been a Formula 1 fan for years. I went to the Grand Prix in the U.S. in '75 and '76, and when I heard this was coming and I only live 200 miles away I said 'I've gotta do it!'”
Until Friday’s practice rides the Formula 1 drivers had only been able to test drive the course through computer simulations. Several drivers toured the track on Thursday and were anxious to take their cars around turn one. It's lining up to be the toughest on the track with a climb right up to the turn. It’s also the turn that fans are ready to watch.
“The best part is the downs, the ups and the downs. That's what makes us very, very excited,” said Willy Labora of Mexico City, Mexico.
The practice runs will continue through Friday. Capital Metro is offering a free shuttle service for ticket holders with shuttles departing from downtown Austin and the Travis County Expo Center.
For full COTA coverage click here.