This is the second part of my blog posts showing the photos that I took while on a tour of Circuit of The Americas (COTA) race track in Austin, Texas on Thursday, April 25, 2013. Circuit of The Americas was recently constructed just southeast of Austin specifically to be the only Formula One (F1) racetrack in the United States. In case you missed it, you can find the first part here.
Before I get started on Part 2, I need to bring to your attention an inaccuracy that I reported in Part 1. I had stated: “The building on the right is owned by the Formula One organization, and can only be used by the Formula One organization. It therefore sits idle for 51 weeks out of the year. This building is called the paddock.”
A couple of readers pointed out that those statements simply were not true. I sent an email to COTA asking for their help in correcting this information. Here is what they told me: “The paddock building is only used by F1 during that race. It is rented out for events or used as a spectator area during other events. It is not vacant 51 weeks out of the year.”
Now that this has been taken care of, it’s back to Part 2!
I was lucky enough to be allowed to tag along with my wife, Barb, on this tour, which was organized by the UT SAGE group that she belongs to. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens.
The photo above is the same one that I showed at the end of Part 1 of my story. That is Turn 17 immediately below you in the foreground, and Turn 11 is way off in the distance, near the upper left corner of the photo.
In this blog post, I will not be showing the photos in the order that I took them. Instead, I will try to show the turns of the race track in the order that the racers encounter them.
Turn 1 is in the southeast corner of the tack, and here is what it looks like from the observation tower.
Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.
The whitish building between the seats and Turn 1 is the parking lot that we were in when I took the photos of Turn 1 (that I showed in Part 1). That is Turn 2 as the track exits the lower left corner of the photo above.
This next photo starts with the pedestrian bridge, located between Turn 2 and Turn 3, and takes you all the way out to Turn 11 in the far back left corner.
The red, white, and blue painted areas are considered to be “off the official track”. They are more like a “warning track”. The drivers are allowed to drive on them, without any penalty for doing so, if they ended up out there as a result of losing control in the previous turn.
This next photo is basically the same view as the previous one, but I zoom in as far as my little lens will go. It shows Turn 5 (in the foreground) to Turn 11.
At this point, the racers really get up to some very high speeds as they travel the long straight-away between Turn 11 and Turn 12. That straight away comes into this next photo from the top right corner of the photo.
Here you see Turns 12 through 16. For a sense of scale, that is a full size water truck on the race track to the left of the pedestrian bridge. That pedestrian bridge is right at the beginning of Turn 17.
Looking straight down from the front of the observation tower (toward the east), you see the short straight-away between Turn 17 and Turn 18.
Turn 18 is a 90 degree turn to the right, and you can see it in the lower right corner of this photo looking due south.
When I took the photo above, I was more interested in the multiple horizontal layers: the race track, the back side of the paddock, the grandstand just beyond that, the southern parking lot (and I can see my little CR-V!), the country side view beyond that, and also Texas Toll Road 130 crossing over the horizon.
Looking back down onto the track, here’s a much better view of Turn 18.
And finally, this next photo completes “our journey” around the track. The stars lead into Turn 19 and the furthest turn from you in this photo is the final turn – Turn 20. Right after that last turn, the racers cross the start/finish line between the paddock and the grand stands.
So far, I’ve shown you the view from three sides of the observation tower. The fourth side is the back side of the tower, and that is towards the west. At the base of the back side of the tower is the Austin360 Amphitheater.
The red pipes that swoop up the back side are about 5 feet (1.5 m) from the railing surrounding the platform that we were standing on. To get the previous photo, I leaned over the rail a little bit (certainly not a lot!) and extended my camera out as far as I could while keeping the camera strap around my neck, and used the Live View on the rear LCD to compose the photo.
The schedule of what bands will be performing here is most impressive, and the schedule can be found here. The evening after we were there, The Lumineers were to perform! The next scheduled concert is Jimmy Buffet, who will be there Thursday evening. Dave Matthews Band, Mumford and Sons, and Train are a few of the bands that I personally know that I would enjoy seeing.
You can take the stairs down, and I believe that I was the only one to do so. I knew that it would take the elevator at least two trips to get everyone else in our group back down to ground level. I thought that I would be down before they all got down, but I was mistaken! When I finally got to the ground, the group was nowhere around.
I stood there and took this photo of the is 251 feet (76.5 m) tall observation tower.
I thought that I heard the faint voice of our tour guide in the distance. He seemed to be in the backstage area of the amphitheater, so that’s where I headed. Just before I caught up with the group, they had all turned around and were heading back towards me…. I had missed the tour guide’s speech, but I swam upstream like a salmon to get only two very quick photos of the amphitheater as seen from the stage.
Just think – The Lumineers would be on that stage in just over 24 hours, in front of a sold out audience!
I had to walk quickly out of the backstage area to catch up with our tour group. A few others with cameras were standing at the base of the tower looking up, so I figured I had at least a couple minutes to do that myself.
The photo above is from the back side of the tower, while the next one is from the front side, right by the open door of our bus.
That was pretty much the end of our tour. The busses took us back to our cars in the south parking lot. The bus drivers, the tour guides, and everyone that we had an encounter with were very friendly, helpful, and answered any question that anyone in our group had.
Barb waited patiently in my “racing Honda” while I got a photo of it in front of the entrance to the grand stands. 😉
And as we circled our way around to get out of the parking lot, I couldn’t help but stop the car, get out, and take one last parting shot of the entrance with the observation tower also in the photo.
Well, I hope that you enjoyed seeing what we saw on our tour of Circuit of The Americas (COTA). I wouldn’t call my photos artwork, but I do hope that I did a good enough job documenting what I saw that will give you a good sense of what this new facility looks like. Maybe you will remember seeing my photos when you get out there to see it for yourself.
Thank you for visiting my blog!
13 thoughts on “Tour of Circuit of The Americas – Part 2”
Love your photographs! I was on the UT SAGE tour with you, and your blog has helped me relive the day. Thanks for taking the time to describe each shot, including your location when you took the shot. Great job…..
Denise, well thank you for the nice words, and thank you to UT SAGE for letting me tag along on the tour of this magnificent facility!
Hard to think of a racetrack as being ‘beautiful’ but your photos sure show it that way! Love the pictures and the descriptions! Especially those pictures of the tower and the ones of the track where the stars are. Wow!
Thank you so much, Loyce. Yea those star were really cool to see from up on that tower. I think it would be cool of they also added them in those sweeping areas around Turns 3 – 5. Thank you for leaving your comment!
I enjoyed very much seeing your photography of the COTA. Jana Wright, my sister-in-law sent them to me. The weekend after the First Formula 1 race I was one of the lucky ones invited by Cadillac to drive their CTS-Vs on the track. I did several laps in a CTS-V wagon and repeated the process in a CTS-V Coupe. It was amazing. Jana and my wife Shari attended the event. It was good to see your photos and write up. My view of the track was blurred a bit as this 65 year old racer at times exceeded 45 mph. I also like your first name
Gregg, now that must have really been fun to actually drive on that track. Lucky you! 45 mph… hmmm…. maybe going around Turn 1 or Turn 11… THAT would be pretty darn respectable, I would think. Tell Jana that I said “thank you” for helping tell people about my little “adventures in photography” we site. Oh, and yes, it’s nice to see another Gregg (with 2 g’s at the end) out there!
I did get the car up to around 120 on a straight section but there are not many of those. Cadillac made an in car video for each driver. Your pictures of the track were a treat to see.
I will be the Events Committee chair for SAGE next year and I certainly hope you will continue to go with us on all our field trips! There are already some good ones in the planning stage. Your coverage of the Circuit of the Americas tour was totally fantastic and I personally enjoyed it so much. I would like to be sure that it is shared with all SAGE members and would like to have a link included in the next SAGE newsletter. Please let me know if that would be okay with you. Also, I am looking for new members for my committee and I know Barb would be a tremendous asset (along with her photographer.) Please extend my sincere invitation to her to join us and to call me for details.
Thank you, Laurie
Laurie, well thank you very much for all of the kind words and comments! As you know, I have already responded to all of your requests in a regular email. Thanks!
When they have to go and repaint all of that striping, I wonder how long it will take? Yes, my thoughts go off the beaten path when I see stuff like this. Very grand, and it sounds like you really enjoyed that tour. I would have taken the stairs too 😉
Libby, that is an interesting thing to ponder over. I wonder HOW they actually do the painting on the track. Nobody asked our tour guide about that….
Yes, I really enjoyed this tour. I took a day off of work, got access to places in a facility that I would never have been able to normally do, and I got to play with my camera for a couple of hours. If that’s what retirement is all about, then I’m ready!
Circuit of The Americas is a world-class destination for performance, education and business. It is the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the United States designed for any and all classes of racing, from motor power to human power, and is home to the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ while also hosting MotoGP™, V8 Supercars™, and GRAND-AM Road Racing™. The Circuit of The Americas’ master plan features a variety of permanent structures designed for business, education, entertainment and race use. Its signature element is a 3.4-mile circuit track. Other support buildings include The Tower Amphitheater, an expansive outdoor live music space; an iconic 251-foot, 25-story tower with observation deck; an events and conference center; a banquet hall; and a state-of-the-art medical facility. For more information and downloadable video, audio and photos, visit: http://www.CircuitofTheAmericas.com or http://www.TowerAmphitheater.com .
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