By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
The United States Grand Prix is coming up this weekend! Seeing as Circuit of The Americas is right in our backyard, we’ve put together a guide to COTA and the awesome city of Austin, Texas for those of you making the pilgrimage to one of the best races of the year.
What is it? The U.S. Grand Prix, F1’s one and only race in the United States, takes place every October at the wonderful, purpose-built road course known as the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. The 3.427 mile track designed by Herman Tilke features 20 turns. It begins with a massive uphill start into turn one before descending into a series of esses reminiscent of Silverstone and Suzuka. It then dives into another interesting series of turns before a long back straight that ends in a technical section of turns, including a triple apex right-hander at the base of the iconic COTA tower before taking a sharp left hand turn downhill towards the start finish straightaway. The track also houses the Austin 360 Amphitheater where Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder will perform during the race weekend.
Where is it? Austin, Texas. The cool, youthful capital of Texas is known for live music, great food, and fun of all kinds. COTA is just the latest edition, and in our opinion, the crown jewel of an already amazing destination. Austin is conveniently located right in the heart of the Lone Star State, just North of San Antonio and only a few hours drive from major metro areas like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The rapidly growing city of just under 1 million people is situated at the intersection of the beautiful Texas Hill Country and the vast central plains where cotton and cattle once reigned supreme.
Where to Stay? As a Texas based company we have been to COTA many times since it opened in 2012. We have covered F1, WEC, The WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, Pirelli World Challenge, and even SVRA vintage races there. We were also among the first to interview our friend Edgar Farrera, COTA’s Director of Sustainability. If you haven’t booked reservations yet, hotels prices will be higher than normal and some locations will be running out of space. We recommend a cluster of hotels along Texas State Highway 71, aka E Ben White Blvd. There is a Comfort Suites, a Best Western Plus, a Holiday Inn, and a La Quinta all in close proximity to one another and only about 20 minutes from the track. If you are feeling a bit fancier there is a Residence Inn by Marriott and a Microtell Inn & Suites by Wyndham. We’ve stayed at almost all of these and found them all perfectly accommodating places to rest when away from the track. Be sure to book as soon as you can to save a bit and ensure you get a room. I have also camped across the street from the track at Chris Taylor Racing Services. There will be plenty of shuttles to and from downtown Austin, but be prepared to sit in traffic for a very long time if you take them.
What to Eat, What to See? Dining is one of the best parts about being in Austin. You could just eat concessions trackside all weekend, but you would be missing out. One of Austin’s best dining experiences is only a stone’s throw away from the track; Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill. Once a unassuming wild game grill, Wild Bubba’s has wholeheartedly embraced COTA as its neighbor and the walls are lined with photos of its famous guests, including many F1 drivers. Wild Bubba’s has normal burgers, but also more exotic eats like rattlesnake, yak, venison, buffalo, kangaroo and more! Closer to town is Shady Grove, an authentic Austin experience with American classics set around a courtyard with giant oak tress and old Airstream trailers. Our favorite spot in town and one we visit every time we hit the track is Brick Oven Restaurant. It sits right below the beautiful Capital building on Red River Street, very close to the famous music clubs and attractions of Sixth Street and South Congress Avenue. It is a nice spot to relax after a long day at the racetrack and it has the best pizza in all of Austin. Be sure and let them know we sent you!
Whether you’ve been to COTA a hundred times or it is your first, the Austin area always has something new to offer. Likewise if it is your first F1 Grand Prix or you are an October regular, there is nothing like the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. Let us know about your experiences and hopefully we will bump into some of you there this weekend.