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In about 3 months, Circuit of The Americas (COTA) will welcome the Formula 1 circus; a deadline that's fast approaching and notoriously unforgiving. Construction of the circuit has accelerated to meet the pace needed for hosting November's inaugural race. Those who attend the race will be quite impressed with COTA's unique pattern of elevation and curves, influenced by other iconic circuits like Osterreichring, Silverstone, Hockenheim, and Istanbul Park. The pressure is on for the Austin circuit to perform and prove, once and for all, the potential of the US market.
Construction on Austin's circuit began late in 2010 and has moved quickly to meet a completion deadline of under 2 years. Early stages appeared to drag on due to the complex soil profile which made land preparations a more arduous task than normal. As the track base was meticulously carved out of the ground in early 2011, infrastructure was set in place, including the new gas, water and electrical lines. Though these initial projects are critical to the long term success of COTA, their early progress was less than monumental and therefore, underreported.
Later in 2011, delays in construction reignited speculation of the project's viability, but development continued despite the contract disputes, doubts, and uncertainty. Emerging from these complications were signs of progress as vertical construction of the Pit Building took shape in December 2011, following the renegotiated contract with Mr. Ecclestone.
Hundreds of additional workers have joined the dynamic workforce this year, producing significant progress week over week. In this short time, the Paddock Complex, consisting of the Pit Building, Media Centre, Medical Centre, and Team Buildings, has grown with great speed. Within the past several months, the Grand Plaza has also grown. Acting as the main entrance on the west side of the Circuit, the plaza extends east until it meets the newly announced Tower Amphitheater, an expansive outdoor music and performance area.
During my most recent track visit on 27 July, I was again impressed with the measurable progress. Stopping first at Turn 1, one can take in a complete panoramic view of the expansive project: buildings, fencing, guard rails, and track surface are all either complete or in progress on all portions of the track. Compared to just a few months ago, the balance of work across the entire site is levelling out as sections which were once far behind have since caught up. For Turn 1 specifically, the required safety fence and guard rails are in place, along with the run-off gravel which will catch those drivers who underestimate the brake point on their first flying lap up the 40 meter hill.
As we rode along the Circuit in our chartered shuttle and approached Turn 11, we stopped to look at the tight hairpin and down the long back straight. Compared to last month's visit at the same location, the kerbs and drainage lines are being installed as well as the FIA required safety fence, which is still in progress. All together, it appears these elements are about 50% complete and will likely be finished in just a few weeks.
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