The track they should build in Austin

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Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg in a photo finish at the Osterreichring in 1982

Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg in a photo finish at the Osterreichring in 1982

Since the news broke that the United States Grand Prix will return to the F1 calendar in 2012 I’ve had emails from many fans in Austin, Texas about the project.

It’s clear there’s already great enthusiasm for the project from fans in the area.

In order for the event to be a success the race organisers need to start by getting the track right – something F1 has failed to do at many of its newest venues.

A dream solution

Fans have been vocal in their criticism of modern F1 circuits in recent years. Happily the message finally seems to be getting through.

McLaren team principal and Formula One Teams’ Association chairman Martin Whitmarch admitted in a recent interview with Autosport that circuit design is letting F1 down:

We’ve had lots of circuits, with Abu Dhabi probably the most bizarre one, where money is no object and they started with a clean sheet of paper. Yet you’ve got probably one of the longest straights in F1 with a chicane and when do we ever see an overtake in a modern-day chicane?
Martin Whitmarsh

So what should race promoter Tavo Hellmund build with his $250m on an as-yet undeveloped plot of land in Austin?

My dream solution for the American Grand Prix is for a race on a superspeedway. IndyCars have abandoned monster tracks like Michigan Speedway and Fontana (now the ‘Auto Club’ Speedway) with their 390kph (242mph) average lap speeds.

Although the FIA regulations do allow for F1 cars to race on ovals, I’d be amazed if it ever happened. And the challenges of building a superspeedway to F1 safety standards would be immense.

But, without wishing to trade in simplistic national stereotypes, F1 would do well to draw on the American philosophy of, ‘bigger, better, faster’ embodied in those fearsome superspeedways.

That’s why I think the United States Grand Prix organisers should make it their mission to build the fastest circuit in Formula 1 for its return to America in 2012.

‘F1′s fastest race’

In America, more than anywhere else, F1 needs a unique selling point. It offers a completely different style of racing to NASCAR and cannot rival the home-grown popularity of that series.

Instead it should play to its own strengths, and put on a race that shows just what modern F1 cars are capable of.

F1 does not need another Valencia, another Bahrain or another Abu Dhabi. In a country with tracks as dramatic as Elkhart Lake, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, another Hermann Tilke cookie cutter effort won’t cut it.

What F1 needs is a new Osterreichring.

When the Austrian circuit was first used for F1 40 years ago it stole Silverstone’s crown as the fastest circuit in Formula 1. Today Monza holds that title – even with two very slow chicanes F1 cars lapped it at an average of 251kph (155mph) last year

Providing it can be done within the FIA’s restrictions on circuit design, a new track in the style of the original Osterreiching with long straights and wide, fast corners could eclipse Monza’s average lap speed.

Yes, it would need wide run off areas. But by copying some of the better features of F1′s newest track Yas Island – its impact-absorbing TecPro barriers and raised spectator stands – this could be achieved without pushing the spectators too far away from the action.

Being able to sell the event as “F1′s fastest race” would be a boon for the race organisers. But whatever they choose to do with their race, F1 cannot afford to waste another opportunity.

It has sampled nine different venues in America – more than it has in any other country – yet failed to find a long-term home. This is the first time it will hold a race in America at a track purpose-built for F1.

Gimmicks like pit tunnels and hotel bridges won’t be good enough. F1 in America needs something truly special and different. This is my idea for what it should be. What’s yours?

Your design for a US Grand Prix track

What would you like to see built in Austin for the United States Grand Prix? Post links to your designs using Scribble Maps, Gmaps Pedometer or a similar tool below.

Here’s my preferred design – though I won’t claim any credit for it:

2012 United States Grand Prix

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178 comments on The track they should build in Austin

  1. Sam said on 3rd June 2010, 20:12

    Interview with the man behind the project Tavo Hellmund off autosport.
    “I’ve always said F1 has to go back to one of the true great road courses in America, whether it be a Road Atlanta or a Laguna Seca, one of these great traditional tracks. An American audience doesn’t like a flat track unless it’s an oval, where they can see everything. It doesn’t show off what F1 is. So you’ve got to go to a beautiful, natural road course. Watkins Glen was the heyday of grand prix racing in America.”

    That’s what he hopes Hermann Tilke can create on the 800 plus acres he has been given to play with. Used to remote deserts and swamps as starting points, this time he has hilly countryside, complete with lakes. Hellmund says the design is over three miles in length, with challenging corners that replicate some of the best in Europe.

    “It’s going to be holy s*** fast,” he insists…

    The name ‘Tilke’ generates a surprising amount of hostility among race fans who have not enjoyed the move to seemingly homogenous new venues in recent years, as the forum on this website testifies. But these days he is the logical option for any would be promoter simply because having done it so often he knows every last detail about what how to create pit buildings, grandstands, access road and the like.

    “I signed a deal with him a long time ago. They know where FIA and FOM want every plug, literally. They’ve already done the design, there’s already a masterplan, and we have unbelievable land, a few miles from the airport. It’s a killer location.”

  2. Bonsai_ent said on 3rd June 2010, 20:40

    Here is my first attempt, on the land near Thunder Hills.

    I have tried to incorporate the 90degree first corner, for Jeff. Looking at OSM terrain maps, I fear this site is quite flat, so no corkscrews!!

    Any how, I’m pleased with my first try, feel free to tinker and improve please.

    http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3780244

    • That looks awesome man, but I think it’ll Spain, fantastic test of a car, but only really interesting form a technical standpoint

    • DomPrez said on 5th June 2010, 18:36

      looked great until until u got to the houses…im sure they wont mind roaring cars in their backyard or living room…

  3. My idea is between 130 and 71 highway (interstates)
    Is this the location? Its right by the airport.

  4. Alexf1man said on 3rd June 2010, 21:25

    I’ve made fictional tracks on Scalextric Sport World if anyone wants to see a few.

  5. Woffin said on 3rd June 2010, 21:38

    I designed a fictional racetrack for rFactor based around a Hydroelectric dam in the town of Thermalito, California. It’s not realistic for F1 standards but a few of the corners and the general layout would do pretty well if it were to be replicated. Have a a look and see what you think :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9pxP8_o17M

    http://www.rfactorcentral.com/detail.cfm?ID=Thermalito

  6. My dream circuit would contain three key ingredients.

    1) At least one crossover via a bridge

    2) Lots of change in gradient. A serious hill climb and then a serious decline – like Bathurst

    3) At least a few banked corners – between 5% and 15% crossfall.

    Actually my dream circuit would be a longer recreation of Oran Park

  7. Dave in NZL said on 3rd June 2010, 22:10

    I have had these ‘on ice’ for a long time now. I picked them up somewhere and really liked them, so I kept them – now I share them with you.

    http://imgup.co.nz/view.php?i=1275599063-1213242427688.jpg

    http://imgup.co.nz/view.php?i=1275599063-1213244952818.jpg

    http://imgup.co.nz/view.php?i=1275599063-1213247292370.jpg

  8. HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd June 2010, 22:33

    Crikey!
    You cannot do that to location one, mate. That’s a ‘sconce’ type fort originally built in the 18th century and redundant by the late nineteenth. Where did you find it?
    It must be northern Europe somewhere – Baltic coast?

  9. I third or fourth the “one banked corner” idea, I would like to see a deliberately simple track created, similar to Dijon or old Fuji with a lot of width and asphalt runoffs with graded strips to wear the tires worse the farther off the corner you go.

    Keep in mind that a high-speed track in Texas in June or July will test and kill many engines. Add one low-speed hairpin to this high-speed track and then you have a lot of drivers caught out when they get fatigued and a lot of faded brakes.

  10. Joey-Poey said on 3rd June 2010, 22:51

    So you uncorked the 8 year old in me that used to draw chalk tracks and race his hot wheels all day in the summer. This is by no means likely, but I had fun and I think if they DID make this, it’d be a pretty cool track.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v64/Joey-Poey/Miscellaneous/TexasGPlg.jpg (with terrain)
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v64/Joey-Poey/Miscellaneous/TexasGPlgb.jpg (without terrain)

    http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3779786 (The Gmaps Pedometer version in case you want to see the elevation changes)

    I present to you: the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Measuring in at just a hair over 3 miles long, it has a total elevation change of rougly 150 feet from it’s highest to lowest points and a total of 21 turns. Part of it’s layout draws heavily from old dirt roads on this estate. It’s because of this old school method of designing based around existing roads that I feel it offers a less formulaic feel and instead nods toward classic tracks such as Spa. The dips and climbs hint at a European style, but the surroundings scream Texas ranch. Only a hop and a skip outside of Austin, it is just off of Highway 71, so it’s easy to reach this boondocks racing facility from the city.

    Allow me to take you on a lap around the course:

    -From the start/finish line we fly towards Bullfrog Bend and Bullfrog Corner. Wrapping around it’s namesake: Bullfrog Pond, there is little run-off due to the water on the inside and punishes those who get squirrely and lose it.

    -The course then runs parallel to the highway and we hit the sharp turn 3, also sometimes called “cemetary bend” for being closest to the cemetary across the highway.

    -Another short straightaway takes us into “the uphill” which is a sweeping 90-degree left-hander that takes us upwards as we start our long climb.

    -Eventually we hit the Amphitheatre, which starts with a right handed kink and then a another slight right turn before the longer left handed namesake turn.

    -A very short straight takes us to turn 7 which precedes the long straightaway up “the climb.” A slight left kink right after we pass “the old shack” and more climbing until….

    -heavy braking into the sweeping right-hander of The Plateau.

    -only a brief respite before The Cliff, which takes us steeply to the highest part of the course and then drops us into…

    -the left handed Cliff Kink and then immediately into dropoff hairpin.

    -Finally we level out a bit as we go through the Rattlesnake Esses. These include turns 11 through 15 and include a variety of fast bends. That leads into “the arena.”

    -The arena starts with Ridge bend, which starts sharp, but eases out and finally kinks to the left one final time. It’s here that we begin to head downhill a little more.

    -Arena hairpin is a slow left hander that leads into a looooong right hander called “the sweep.” It ends with Turn 19 with is a final, flat out right kink.

    -After this is The dip: a long straightaway that gets steeper, then drops off and finally levels back some and then begins to bend right.

    -This leads into Ranch corner, which is a 90-degree right hander that juts up against the old ranch of the property.

    -From here we’ve reached the looooong front straight (almost 3/4 of a mile long) which oddly has a slight right-left in the middle of it called Copperhead kink. This is a leftover of the roads this course follows, which had this kink originally.

    And that’s a lap around the US Grand Prix of Austin, Texas…

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd June 2010, 23:17

      Nice tracks Joey, from your layouts you seem to to know the exact location of the 800 acres that Tivo Whatits has bought. Can you confirm?

      • Joey-Poey said on 4th June 2010, 3:22

        Haha, no idea. I picked out this area from scouring googlemaps around Austin for something hilly and open enough to build an F1 track X)

    • Dipak T said on 3rd June 2010, 23:23

      If I may, I would suggest opening/straighteing out the Rattlesnake esses to speed them up – unfortunately they scream Bahrain loop to me – and also to open up the Arena hairpin into a fast kink, followed by that long right hander into the dip.

      Other than that, I think its a good grand prix circuit.

      • Joey-Poey said on 4th June 2010, 3:27

        Yeah I worried about that, too, with the Esses, but I tried to keep with the roads that were there. Plus, from looking at the topography, I think that part *might* be on a hillside, so straightening it might mean a lot of earth-moving. The turns really aren’t that slow besides possibly 14 so I don’t think it should fall victim to Bahrain-syndrome.

        And I’m not sure what you mean about the arena section. Are you saying chop it comepletely so that it’s a fast left kink before the dip?

        • ajokay said on 4th June 2010, 11:55

          That track is lovely, I am a fan. The Rattlesnake Esses don’t scream Bahrain loop to me, they look as if they’ll be able to be taken at some sort of speed, and they wind around the hillside beautifully. Plus they give plenty of opportunities to cock up before the Arena, allowing the car behind to get close.

          • Joey-Poey said on 4th June 2010, 23:13

            Thanks! Yeah, I figure it’d be like the Suzuka esses in that they’re probably pretty fast and require a rhythm, otherwise: screw up your line on one and you screw them all up.

  11. Les said on 3rd June 2010, 23:05

    My goodness I couldn’t agree more. The Osterreichring is in my opinion probably the greatest circuit ever used for Grand Prix racing. It would be nice for them to build a Grand Prix track and not an F1 track if you know what I mean. It needs to be special. Why can’t they build tracks like the Osterreicring with big enough run-offs? Its possible at Spa after all so theres no excuse for dull circuits. For a start the FIA regulations need to be changed to encourage challenging circuits. I hope the tide is going to turn sooner rather than later.

    • Dipak T said on 3rd June 2010, 23:29

      I think the with the advent of tecpro barrier, grass verges and gravel traps have to be phased back in at the expense of tarmac run off.

      You look at the new Arena section at Silverstone. Granted, its not as ridiculous as other places, but its still blighting it, there is, as far as I can see, no reason to have constant run off following the new section on BOTH SIDES of the track. Also the run off added on the exit of Maggots is stupid. At no point was run off ever needed there, its ruins the look of the track, and, seeing as the modifications were mades with bikes in mind – just why?

  12. Dean Yamasaki said on 3rd June 2010, 23:31

    I like your design Keith. It’s kinda like Monza without the Variantes to slow things down or maybe Interlagos without the slow middle sector.

  13. macahan said on 3rd June 2010, 23:46

    Brilliant article Keith.

    I totally agree in one form or another this race need a unique feature to draw the crowd. Fastest F1 track sure would do that. To bad the regulations don’t allow for angled corners. Imaging one long corner with a strong grade on it to allow fast cornering.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Mount_Panorama_street_racing_circuit_in_Australia.svg

    Imagine something like this track. Make it a bit longer. 7 through 10 looks like turn 8 in Turkey. If turn 23 got a strong grade to it imagine the speed they could bring with them onto the front straight would make corner 1 a overtaking spot. Corner 11 should be tighter to really slow the cars down creating another overtaking spot then they can fight for position corner 12 through 18. Lot of over and under make it tight and WIDE possibly put a grade on the outside to create a alternative race line tighter and slower inside line or faster, longer outside line. Corner 19 corner with negative angle making it hard for the driver to get it right and 18 should be on the top of a hill to create a blind corner to make it harder to get a perfect entry for 19 plus give you a “lift” at the top if downforce is not right forcing the drivers with to low downforce to lift and not getting good exit speed to the long straight or if you have to good downforce you take the corners well but with the long straight (should be the longest straight in F1 between turn 19 and 20) they will suffer big time there with all the drag.

    Circuit length somewhere around 7.5-8km. Give you longest circuit with longest straight and possibilities for fastest circuit as well.

    • Dipak T said on 4th June 2010, 0:05

      Isnt that Bathurst?

    • It’s interesting reading someone re-imagining what Mount Panaroma should like like.

      You mention making corner 11 tighter, this is what the approach to turn 11 looks like in real life – Turn 11 Approach in the morning

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th June 2010, 8:28

      Imagine something like this track. Make it a bit longer. 7 through 10 looks like turn 8 in Turkey. If turn 23 got a strong grade to it imagine the speed they could bring with them onto the front straight would make corner 1 a overtaking spot. Corner 11 should be tighter to really slow the cars down creating another overtaking spot then they can fight for position corner 12 through 18. Lot of over and under make it tight and WIDE possibly put a grade on the outside to create a alternative race line tighter and slower inside line or faster, longer outside line. Corner 19 corner with negative angle making it hard for the driver to get it right and 18 should be on the top of a hill to create a blind corner to make it harder to get a perfect entry for 19 plus give you a “lift” at the top if downforce is not right forcing the drivers with to low downforce to lift and not getting good exit speed to the long straight or if you have to good downforce you take the corners well but with the long straight (should be the longest straight in F1 between turn 19 and 20) they will suffer big time there with all the drag.

      Okay, you should go and watch on on-board video of Bathurst. Because no modifications are needed – it’s pretty much perfect.

  14. TommeG said on 3rd June 2010, 23:55

    This is perhaps my oldest track design, probably 10 to 15 years old. Over the years I added some “optional” pieces of track, but in its fastest, most sweeping configuration I imagine this a 5.5 km circuit with 10 corners.
    (Funnily, only a few years ago did I realise that this design kind of reminds one of a reverse Sebring)
    http://img64.imageshack.us/img64/7179/track01.jpg
    (Sorry for the amateurish image, I had no time to get to design it with one of the tools mentioned in the article)

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