Andretti drives first full lap around ‘fantastic’ Circuit of the Americas

Mario Andretti gets his Lotus fired up in front of the main straight grandstand at Circuit  of the Americas

Mario Andretti gets his Lotus fired up in front of the main straight grandstand at Circuit of the Americas

Oct.22 (Reutres) Legendary 1978 Formula One World Champion, Mario Andretti took the first full lap around the new Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, pronouncing the 20-turn, 3.4-mile race track “absolutely fantastic”.

Mario Andretti at Circuit  of the Americas

Mario Andretti at Circuit of the Americas

On November 18, the purpose-built venue will host the first U.S. Grand Prix since Indianapolis in 2007.

“It’s very green, as you could expect,” Andretti told Reuters. “You get offline a bit – it’s a bit slippery. But that’s normal for a new circuit. Overall, my impression is absolutely fantastic.”

Texas officials and actor Patrick Dempsey, who competes in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, were on hand for the first-lap ceremony on a hot, sunny afternoon.

Andretti, a Circuit of the Americas ambassador, cut a ribbon of checkered flags from a Lotus 79 Cosworth racing car and then zoomed up a steep hill toward the hairpin Turn 1.

“That’s my designated signature corner,” said Andretti, who had initially been scheduled to drive a Lotus R30 Formula 1 car before that plan was aborted because of a mechanical problem.

“I think that’s going to invite quite a bit of action there, a lot of overtaking for sure.”

Mario Andretti (USA) practiced the new Lotus 79, but reverted to the 78 for the race, where he finished eleventh.  Monaco Grand Prix, Rd 5, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 7 May 1978. BEST IMAGEAndretti, who has won races in Formula One, IndyCar, the World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR, said going up a hill and braking often gave drivers a false sense of security.

“So you’re going to push the envelope,” the 72-year-old added. “If you’re going to challenge, that’s the time you’re going to do it. The track seems to be, in many of the braking areas, wide enough to invite that.

“If you somehow misjudge a situation, I think you can get out of it because of the width. I think you’re going to see a lot of action because of that, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Construction workers in hard hats were still busy at the site on Sunday, and Circuit of the Americas officials said the work remaining involved landscaping and finishing building interiors.

“Everything is ready for hosting a race,” Circuit of the Americas spokeswoman Ali Putnam said.

Teams are eager to return to a country that is a key market for sponsors and car manufacturers but one that the sport has found hard to crack over the years.

Circuit of the AmericasNext year’s inaugural Grand Prix of America in New Jersey will be postponed to 2014 because local organisers need more time to prepare, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday.

Andretti said he had spoken with some of those involved in the New Jersey race.

“They just have a few issues here and there, which I think pushed the project back, but they’re still very much just going for it,” Andretti said.

“I know there potentially were some negative comments and so forth going on, but you know, they’re pressing on.”

Having two races in the United States would help build a fan base in the country, Andretti said.

“To me, the more the merrier,” he added. “If there’s going to be any country that would host two races and justify it, in my opinion, I think it would be the U.S.”

Subbed by AJN.

  • John

    I wish I was going to Austin. It’s a really special place to me, and quite a beautiful city.

  • edd

    we had planned to attend for the entire weekend but were unable to find an availible hotel room (this was a few months ago). it may be possible that the organizers underestimated the F1 fan base here in the US. due to the size of our country we may have as many if not more F1 fans than most of the European nations. if the race is a success (it will be) we will purchase or rent a caravan for next year as well as for the new Jersey race if it becomes a reality.

  • fools

    Edd, I agree with you statement. There are many F1 fans In the U.S.

    I looked into scheduling a Hotel back in early February 2012 and they were already sold out and minimum of 5 nights you had to pay for in order to get a room. With rates sky rocketing just because of this F1 event. Madness!

  • Lauda Fan

    Now that’s a real Lotus! And one hell of a driver in his day…

  • No more computer controlled paddel shifters

    I say go back to shifters like this lotus has, no more computer controlled paddel shifters. Make the drivers have to control the shifts and match the RPM’s.

    Make the drivers have to do the work and make them have to think, todays F1 cars are far to easy to drive.

  • GPFanatic

    @ no more

    Today’s F1 is not as easy as you think it is to drive. In the 70’s F1 cars only have a shifter, the pedals and the steering wheel. Today you have a lot of knobs and push buttons to set up the car while driving above 300 kph. It needs more concentration than just driving focus. The paddle shift was justified long ago due to safety reasons. And to justify more, a lot of road cars are shifting to paddles. I’m not saying goodbye to old shift sticks but isn’t F1 suppose to be the laboratory for road cars?

  • psych4191

    This track is most definitely a top 5 of the year. It’s up there with Monaco, India, Spa, and Brazil.