Finally getting around to a post-race report…
We didn't camp at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) itself, since we didn't have an extra $15K lying around. We’ll see if prices come down in future years. The sites at the track looked like great fun; mostly party bus DPs (and a RENTED Airstream SkyDeck, if you can imagine!) but some lower-end rented Class Cs, as well. However, other than the track, there’s NOTHING entertainment-wise out there. We stayed the Tuesday before the race till the Monday after at Austin Lone Star RV Resort, just off I-35, west of the airport. Nice place—narrow roads that need some work, but no problem for our 28’ and F150. Very well-run, efficient and friendly management. Ten-minute drive to entertainment and restaurants in downtown Austin. We put our name on the reservation list for next year.
Austin Lone Star was well-placed for us to be able to drive to the track without dealing with the scrum of people in downtown Austin. We drove to the track on local roads south of the city and parked on-site near our bleacher seats at Turn 11E. Great seats for viewing/photographing a lot of the action at the hairpin, but most of the passing/sliding action seemed to be happening at Turns 12 and 19. The track itself is amazing—very well put together, lots more elevation change than it appears on TV. If I were to compare it to an existing F1 circuit, I would say it’s most like Interlagos. You can get lots of exercise walking around at the track; there’s also a tram that runs just outside the circuit.
It’s amazing that it was finished in time to hold the 2012 F1 race at all, though there are still lots of improvements to be made. Long lines at the not-so-plentiful food vendors and circuit apparel tents; no landscaping yet; traffic management was concentrated on the undeveloped local roads around the circuit and not at all in the parking lots, so exiting the circuit—particularly on race day—required a lot of patience. We (and others who drove) anticipated this and brought coolers for a 2-hour post-race tailgate while we waiting for the lots to clear. Shuttle service from downtown Austin and the Travis County Expo Center seemed to be fairly efficient, but we didn’t have any direct experience with that.
The city of Austin and COTA did a great job (I thought) trying to provide an entertainment experience at the track and in the city that would appeal to a large, diverse, international audience. We went to all events at the track and were generally too exhausted to want to go party downtown, but we did go see Junior Brown at the Continental Club in the evening after the race. Weather was great, if a bit unseasonably chilly. However, I’ll take Austin in November over Austin in June ANY day!