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Circuit of The Americas gets F1 approval, lands Grand-Am Rolex Series

Circuit of The Americas will be one of the new locations joining the GRAND-AM Road Racing series in 2013, with an event planned for Mar. 2. Established in 1999, GRAND-AM Road Racing sanctions the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, which deliver professional sports car racing throughout North America. Both series are televised in the United States and Canada on the SPEED network and distributed globally through ESPN International.

GRAND-AM Road Racing showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and sophisticated racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. The Rolex Series is home to some of the best and most recognized names in motorsports, including Scott Pruett, Max Angelelli, Alex Gurney (son of Dan), Jon Fogarty (no relation), David Donohue (son of Mark), Darren Law, Andy Lally, Patrick Dempsey, and more.

GRAND-AM already features some of motorsport’s most iconic U.S. racing venues, including Daytona (home of its season-opening Rolex Series 24-hr endurance race), Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Watkins Glen.

The GRAND-AM race at Circuit of the Americas will be the second event of the 2013 season, following Daytona. In addition to CoTA, both the Rolex and Continental series added races at Road Atlanta and Kansas Speedway. GRAND-AM will also partner with the American Le Mans Series on a combination weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The two organizations are in the process of merging and will operate as one, new sports car entity beginning with the 2014 season. Circuit of The Americas earlier this year announced an ALMS race for Spring 2013.

In the meantime, Charlie Whiting, who directs racing, safety, and technical matters for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sanctioning body that oversees international motorsport, including the Formula 1 series, has declared Circuit of The Americas ready to host the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. Whiting visited as part of a scheduled pre-race inspection and approved the circuit for “Grade 1” status, which is the highest distinction awarded to a motorsports venue. The passing grade clears the way for the circuit to conduct Formula 1 racing this fall.

All Formula 1 circuits must be inspected and approved by Whiting before they can conduct Grand Prix racing, and the motorsports veteran spent approximately two hours touring the Austin facility along with representatives of Circuit of The Americas, general contractor Austin Commercial, and German track architects Tilke GmbH. Whiting had rave reviews for the entire venue and the work completed since his last visit to the circuit in August.

During his visit, Whiting inspected the now fully paved racing circuit and personally walked the 3.4-mile course to ensure the asphalt met FIA requirements. He inspected curbing, guard rails, fencing and other safety measures that have been installed around the circuit. He also toured the pit/paddock building, which will house race control and serve as his base of operations during the Formula 1 event. Whiting described the circuit’s permanent structures as “fantastic,” and said he was especially impressed with the design of the circuit’s turns, including its signature Turn 1.

“There are 3-4 corners that are very likely to see overtaking,” Whiting remarked. “If you look at Turn 1, you’ll see that the turns have been designed so that they’re extremely wide and the apex is very short. It’s a very modern approach to slow corners where we hope overtaking will take place. So I’m very confident it will work well.

Whiting’s visit comes about 2 months before Formula 1 racing is set to return to the United States, Nov. 16-18. Whiting said he was assured that remaining landscaping and painting projects will be completed in a few weeks’ time. He will conduct one final check of the venue Monday, Nov. 12.

Posted in: Sports
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