Peering out across a wooden platform at the end of what's supposed to be Turn 1 it's difficult to believe this muddy collection of roads will soon be a world-class Formula 1 circuit (slightly less difficult to believe than two weeks ago). Yet the crews are on-site and construction of the Circuit of the Americas (CoTA) in Austin is underway. I saw it with my own eyes.
A minor disagreement — what's $25 million between friends — between F1's billionaire muppet leader Bernie Ecclestone and the organizers behind the effort to bring a race to Texas in 2012 halted construction at the new CoTA facility for a few weeks. That was until cooler heads finally prevailed and the money was found.
With less than a year to go before the first race I stopped by the track this week to see how far they've gotten with the construction. Last month the track was mostly just a collection of cleared dirt paths but now crews on every part of the track are working to establish the necessary support structures.
Ali Putnam, the Communications/Media Relations Manager for the track, guides us up to a platform overlooking the site on a rainy afternoon. She looks relieved to be focusing on the construction portion of the track's future and not the future itself as she recalls the long nights of worry leading up the decision to go forward.
Things are "back to normal" in her words, with crews working on building the first vertical structures on the massive 1,500-acre compound outside of Austin. Cranes hold the support beams for the pits, paddock, and media center. After these are constructed they'll move onto the permanent grandstands.
Construction was only down for a couple of weeks and Putnam tries to downplay the challenges and points out this same crew built the new W Hotel in Austin in a short period of time (a hotel that'll surely be sold out early for the race).
Crews can also go to full 24-hour construction if necessary says Putnam, but "they haven't had to do that yet."
If they get the track done in time — and they don't doubt they can — it'll be quite the accomplishment. Heck, if God could create the world in seven days how hard can it be to build a race track in 11 months? And God took breaks.