Just 12 months from now, Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsports, will be in Austin. Just this week construction crews began pouring concrete for the team buildings and grandstand which can be seen behind the signs in this photo.
The Circuit of the Americas being built in Elroy just southeast of Austin, promises to be the most advanced racing facility in North America.
What does the track look like now? Join us for a "lap" ...
Circuit of the Americas promises to be a challenging 3.4-mile, 20-turn, counter-clockwise race track. It offers a good mix of hairpins, straights, esses, and high-speed corners wth lots of natural elevation changes — something that's been lacking in the last few new F1 circuits.
From a temporary viewing platform above Turn 1, the highest point on the track, you can see the sprawling track layout being carved out of the 1,000 acre site. It's 133 feet from the highest point of the track to the lowest point.
Diggers, bulldozers and every sort of dirt-moving vehicle you can imagine are in constant motion all around the track. This is the uphill braking zone into Turn 1, which makes a tight hairpin to the left.
Here you can see the relationship between Turn 1 and Turn 2. Grandstand seats overlooking this corner will have a view down the front straight and be able to see a lot of the track.
This is the straightaway leading up to Turn 3. While it may look like we're on the surface where the track will be laid, we're actually 10 feet below the track surface.
Turn 4 is the first of several "esses"—multiple medium-speed corners, sequenced together, what you might call "switchbacks." All 20 turns on the track are marked with identifying flags.
Turns 5 and 6 begin a corner sequence inspired by a similar set of corners on England's famous Silverstone Circuit.
This looks like a canal but it's actually a straightaway. This isn't part of the main layout, it's a "short cut" section that will be used in shorter configurations that bypass some of the corners.
Because of the properties of the clay in the soil here, the track foundation has to be treated in a special way so it won't move as the Texas clay expands and contracts. This is how you build an F1 track in Texas:
Dig 10 feet below the grade—everywhere. Lay down a thick polymer layer seen here. Condition all the clay that you remove. Fill with a 7-foot layer of "select" fill.
Then, add another layer of select base. Cover this with red soil, then add crushed concrete.
Now put down something called "pit run," and finally, the last step will be a specially formulated FIA-spec asphalt designed in Germany.
Once the asphalt has been laid, the track can no longer be driven on by construction equipment.
By altering the moisture and density of the clay, workers are able to ensure that the track stays put. The word "stabilize" is used a lot.
Here we see Turn 10, a very fast left hander that ends in a hairpin. You can really see the natural elevation changes that are invisible from the map.
Turn 11 is a tight hairpin, and the furthest point on the track away from the start/finish line.
At Circuit of the Americas, satellites are used to measure points on the track to make sure that all the dimensions line up precisely with the plans.
Here more polymer can be seen. This layer helps minimize any water moving in or out of the track's foundation.
The straightaway shown here is the longest straight section on the track. It's amazing to think that come next November, this is where cars will be hitting 200 mph.
Circuit of the Americas will have two tunnels, which will allow passenger cars, motorhomes and team transporters under the track surface and into the facility.
Circuit of the Americas is called a "balanced site," which means that no dirt is hauled away: everything dug up is reused to balance the low spots. An environmentally friendly approach has been taken with everything, and each of the ponds on and bordering the site are being left undisturbed.
Our lap skipped over a few of the final corners, but the sequence of Turns 16, 17 and 18 should be exciting once completed. It will be a multi-apex corner mirrored after Istanbul Park's famous Turn 8 in Turkey.
This infield section will also be home to a 20,000 seat amphitheater for concerts and festivals.
Finally we come to Turn 20, the final corner onto the front straight and also the pit entrance. Not only does the ground underneath the track have to be dug out 10 feet deep and conditioned, but the ground underneath everything else as well.
Grandstands, buildings, and garages all must sit on stable ground.
The front straight shows the most visual progress, and the building foundations have been started. Soon vertical construction will begin resembling a proper racing venue.
From here, in the background, you can see the extreme climb up to Turn 1. It will be considerably louder here next November.
The rendering of the completed Circuit of the Americas looks much greener than we saw it, but a lot will change in the next year. Ground first broke in January, and while it may not look like a race track yet, it's moving quickly.
Most importantly, it's happening.