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Mario Andretti hails phenomenal Circuit of the Americas


By Berthold Bouman

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) has been officially opened during a ‘First lap ceremony’ performed by 1978 Formula One World Champion Mario Andretti in a Lotus 79. Andretti, the circuit’s official Ambassador cut a ribbon to open the 3.4 mile track, the first purpose-built Formula One facility in the United States, situated Southeast of Austin, Texas.

Andretti cuts the ribbon to officially open the circuit

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

After a few more laps on the circuit Andretti further commented, “It’s everything I expected and more. The track is phenomenal. It has all the features that you are looking for, giving you the opportunity to overtake, while negotiating some tighter corners. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into it.”

Lotus test and reserve driver Jerome d’Ambrosio was the first to lap the circuit in a modern Formula One car, the Lotus R30, and he gave his first impression of the circuit. “There’s a real buzz about the Circuit of The Americas and it was fantastic to get out on track to demonstrate the R30,” d’Ambrosio said. “It’s a very enjoyable layout with a couple of really good places for overtaking, some long fast sweeping ‘S’ corners, and some really good high speed changes of direction like ‘Becketts’ in Silverstone.”

Unfortunately Lotus experienced technical problems which meant running was limited to a few laps in the morning. “It was a shame not to get more laps, as an engine issue meant we were unable to continue running, but I had enough time to get a really good feel of the circuit,” d’Ambrosio said.

He was impressed with the circuit’s lay-out, “It’s an enjoyable track for a racing driver and also fantastic for the fans as the viewing areas are very well placed; there should be plenty of action. The first corner is quite special and it will be interesting to see it when people are dicing for position in the race. Austin is a superb city with a great atmosphere, and I think the city will live around Formula One for the week of the Grand Prix and that’s something we all can enjoy; it’s really going to be something quite special.”

Actor Patrick Dempsey was also present and lapped the circuit in a Ferrari GT 2, and he commented, “It’s a very fast track with a great rhythm to it. For Formula One it’s really important. I don’t think they’ve ever had a home base in America that has worked. It’s a really good opportunity for Formula One to come back into this country and start a new tradition. This is a market that they need.”

Red McCombs, one of the founding partners of the COTA, “It is a very exciting day. I’ve been excited since I was first introduced to this product and the fact that we now have it finished is a joy of mine.” And he added, “When I found out how Formula One is viewed everywhere else in the world, and the dramatic impact it has on the countries where it is run — it is their Super Bowl each year, it is their World Cup — I realized that Formula One has an identity that we need in the United States. And for us to be able to do this here in Austin is so exciting I just can’t wait for the people to be a part of that.”

The United States Grand Prix will take place on November 16-18, a few weeks ago it received the certificate Grade 1 after a visit of FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting.

Andretti in his Lotus 79

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