Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great time to be a resident of Austin, Texas. When I say that, I'm not talking about the plethora of delicious food trailers around the city, or the fact that it's ACL weekend and the Texas heat is finally gone for a few months (although that's all great too.) I'm talking about the Circuit of the Americas, the racetrack southeast of the city that's set to host the U.S. Grand Prix Formula 1 race in about a month.
Until about two years ago, I assumed that the only time I would ever see an F1 race would be if I took a vacation in Europe. Now they're building the damn thing right in my back yard. Yes, the Circuit of the Americas racetrack has had a few setbacks, missteps and fights over money, but now that we're only a few weeks from race day, it looks like the F1 in Austin will be a reality after all.
And it's not just F1 we have to look forward to here. MotoGP, Australian V8 Supercars and the Grand-Am Road Racing series have signed up, and a host of endurance races including American Le Mans Series are tentatively scheduled as well. If all of this goes smoothly, Austin could go down as one of the best cities to live in if you're a racing fan.
But looking at the list of races we're expected to see at COTA got me thinking about other races that could be held there too. Honestly, I'd like to see more homegrown events take place there. F1 and Aussie V8 Supercars are nice, but how about something with a bit more of an Austin flair to it? How about something a little bit more ridiculously awesome, as we say around here?
On that note, I've drafted a few ideas I plan on sending to COTA officials soon on races that I believe could potentially make hundreds of dollars and draw at least a dozen spectators — maybe more!
Take a look at my ideas and let me know what you think in the comments. Then tell us: what races would you like to see come to COTA, made up or otherwise?
Photo credit Shutterstock
Car2Go Smart Car Demolition Derby
Down here in Austin, we don't have a very strong Zipcar presence quite yet. But what we do have is Car2Go, where municipal employees and residents alike can check out little blue and white Smart Fortwos when their fixxie bikes aren't up to the task of getting groceries.
There's just one little problem with Smart cars, though: they suck abysmally. In addition to getting terrible gas mileage for their size, requiring premium fuel and packing about the worst transmission in any modern automobile, they're downright terrifying to drive on the highway in a state where hulking Chevy Tahoes are so ubiquitous they may as well be issued by the government whenever a taxpayer acquires a second child.
So here's my solution: we must destroy the Smart cars, and we must destroy them through racing. The Circuit of the Americas would make the perfect venue for a Smart Car Demolition Derby. Last Fortwo standing wins, but hopefully none of them will survive.
Photo credit Car2Go
Buda Wiener Dog Endurance Racing
Just south of Austin lies the small town turned bustling bedroom community known as Buda. Each spring, Buda plays host to the Buda Country Fair and Wiener Dog Races, a delightful Central Texas tradition where people have their dachshunds compete in obscenely cute foot races. More than 400 dogs have raced in recent years.
It's a lot of fun, but like everything else in life, it could be better on a race track. My idea is to turn the Wiener Dog Races up a notch and have them compete at the Circuit of the Americas in a 24 Hours of Le Mans-style showdown. Doing it for 24 straight hours might net the organizers an animal cruelty charge, but I bet the little dogs have it in them for more than just one quick race.
Who wouldn't want to see a bunch of wiener dogs take the corners on that magnificent track like tiny, adorable little Aston Martins and Corvettes?
We could even have an open class that any small dog can enter. In that case, I'll have to get my little chihuahua/papillion mix Mr. Brooks back down to his fighting weight. It's unlikely I'll ever achieve my dream of becoming a professional racer, but maybe my dog can do it.
Photo credit Shutterstock
The West Campus 500 Presented By Lone Star
Every major college town has a "student ghetto," and Austin is no exception. Here it's the West Campus neighborhood, which is one of the best places in America to live if you enjoy noise from frat parties, poor street lighting, trash, and property crime.
It's not exactly a paradise for fine automobiles, either. It seems every University of Texas student and their roommate in West Campus drives either a 12-year-old Honda Civic, a hand-me-down American beater left behind by a dead grandparent, a sorority girl special V6 Mustang or used Lexus RX300, or the standard issue dudebro Chevy Avalanche.
What do these cars and trucks have in common? They're all in various states of disrepair while their owners slog through four years of undergrad, carelessly putting off oil changes and other routine maintenance in order to save money for booze. Hell, some of them even end up abandoned after their owners graduate, left to rot in the street like some old dorm room mattress upon which many questionable hookups took place.
So if we gathered up some of the rides we find across West Campus and flung them across the Circuit of the Americas, we'd have ourselves something along the lines of a Lemons race, except the cars aren't as nice. It could even be sponsored by Lone Star, every Texan's choice of beer when they're on a tight budget. I'd watch 500 miles of that!
Ultimate Unicycle Challenge
In discussing this feature with a colleague of mine who covers motorsports, he suggested that it would be funny if the Circuit of the Americas schedule included a unicycle race. "Except that people in this town are crazy enough to actually try it," he said.
And he was right. If there was ever a city that loved human powered transportation, it would be Austin. Bicycles are a common sight downtown, as are bike racks on the backs of cars. Also, more than a few people are biking to the circuit on race day, even though it's miles outside of the city limits. (Then again, considering the massive traffic CF that's expected, biking may not be a bad idea.)
There has already been talk about a bicycle race on the track, so why not make things more interesting and do it with one wheel? What I'd like to see is hundreds of competitors racing around the circuit on their mountain unicycles. (Yes, that's a thing.)
This being nutty Austin and all, I could see most of the competitors dressing up in ridiculous costumes or gorilla suits, as has been known to happen here. I actually think that would be a lot of fun to watch, and from a cyclist's standpoint, the elevation changes at the Circuit of the Americas would surely present a mighty challenge.
And somewhere in Europe, however, some wealthy racing purist is gouging his eyes out at the mere thought of this event. Oh well. Welcome to Austin, race fans.
Photo credit Samuel Mann
Austin Hybrid Hypermiling Championship
When it was announced that F1 would be coming to Austin, racing fans were bending over backwards to try and win over the
local environmental activists who were none too happy about having noisy, polluting, fuel-guzzling auto racing in their city.
"Lots of technology from F1 trickles down to make your car more efficient!" "The cars use a KERS system, which practically makes them hybrids!" "F1 might go to four-cylinder engines soon because they care about the environment!" And so on. You should have seen it, it was ridiculous.
I don't think those sentiments convinced the race haters. So maybe the Circuit of the Americas can give them something they would enjoy: a race featuring nothing but hybrid cars whose goal isn't to finish first, but to get the best fuel economy overall.
Who wouldn't love a race that favors hypermiling over outright speed? I mean, besides everyone who reads Jalopnik, obviously. Sure, it wouldn't be exciting, but maybe the track could get carbon credits or something if they hosted an event like this. We love our hybrids ever so dearly in Austin.
Photo credit jurvetson