Sunday, May 26, 2013

Loli Report: Grand Prix of the Americas (Circuit of the Americas MotoGP Outing)

I feel like since I did a big trip report for my super amazing Laguna Seca camping trip I should do one for Circuit of the Americas too. But I didn't camp (I didn't find out about camping until the week before so I hadn't asked for Friday off and almost $200 is too much for one night). Also since there isn't a whole ton of information available for CotA hopefully this will help someone else out since the CotA website is probably the most unhelpful thing available.

I stalked ticket sales, waiting for them to go live. I was worried they would be like the F1 tickets and would sell out rather quickly. Please note that the CotA website is only really good for purchasing tickets. They went live, I bought a General Admission ticket and called it a day. They didn't mention what was going on with parking so I figured they were doing something like the shuttles I'd heard about for F1. Since they didn't mention camping AT ALL on their website I actually drove down to CotA the Monday after the F1 race and looked and asked around (I was in town for a lolita meet up). No one had noticed or heard of any camping. I was less than pleased but I live kinda sorta in driving distance so I just planned to commute Saturday and Sunday and not try for Friday at all.

A week before I really was not liking the idea of that commute (I'd have to get up super early so I could be at the track at a good time) so I hunted around their website looking to see if maybe last minute they added some near tack camping. No dice there but I did learn they weren't doing shuttles so supposedly I'd need to rush order $60 in parking passes so I could get to the track which they said wouldn't allow people to just walk up either. Having been to maaaany NASCAR races I knew the drill for how to handle this since in my exploration I got a feel for the area and CotA is in a very rural place. There was a 99% chance of someone who owned land near the track seeing the money making opportunity of a sign saying Parking $10 and doing that. If not then surely CotA would have a cash lot. That didn't solve my camping issue though so thinking about those rural folks I figured maybe someone would be just crazy enough to open their field to tent campers so I hit up craigslist. Yes this sounds hella shady. So shady. But I'm adventurous and have a car so if I made plans that didn't work out then I could get out of their easily.

That's where I found the official near track camping. On Craigslist.

The site is called RVNightly but also handles tent camping people too and near track cabins. It was $180 for the whole weekend and wasn't even track side or track view or anything. They still had spots open a week before but with a ton of cavity fillings draining my wallet and having not asked for Friday off $180 for one night was just too ridiculous. So I decided to pass. I figured I'd toss a sleeping bag and cooler full of food in my trunk and if I really felt like it I could sleep in a Walmart parking lot.

I didn't end up waking up super early since I'd had to close the library the night before and walk a friend of a friend's dogs. But it was Saturday so it would be practices and qualifying and chill and mainly a chance for me to scope out good spots for Sunday. I got dressed, tossed my cooler, sleeping bag and day bag in my trunk then hit the road. I think I got to the track itself at about 1pm in the end. The google map directions worked beautifully and the drive wasn't too terrible and whaddya know there was $10 parking (the one that said Last Chance/Best Deal is not lying, after that it is CotA's $30 unpaved cash lot). It was about a half mile from the track and in a field but this is a race so walking should be expected.

I took my sweet time circling the track, watching whoever was on the track at different points to see which location would provide the best view. There were a number of solid places actually, the track seems like it'd be a blast to take a spin around and the background as far as the eye can see is Texas blue sky and lush greenery. They also serve full on cocktails and if you get a top shelf/premium cocktail it came in a collectible glass. Legit glass. I also ran into half the group of friends I'd made at Laguna, we chatted for a short bit then went on our way. It was a chill track with lots of conveniently located restrooms and full bars. And there was no line for the ladies room unlike the super long line for the men's room! Ha!

It was a good day, I had a spot scoped out and got to soak up some race track. I also did my shopping, none of the tshirts had a design I liked so I went for a sticker for my car and a lapel pin.

I got loads of compliments on my hat and lots of people said I was crazy for wearing heels to the track (some of the gals were super made up and wearing 5" heels, those are the crazy women I have respect for) but it was a fairly fab day. I finished it off by dropping by Whole Foods (we don't have one in podunk) since I needed matcha and rice flour for dango and cakes. I also got a sushi tray since I was hungry and it sounded good.

I didn't end up sleeping in the Walmart parking lot since I was utterly beat so a hot shower and a warm soft bed sounded like heaven.

The big day! I got up early and got pretty and then hit the road at about 7-8am. It's a two hour drive and I wanted to get there by 11am so I figured that would leave enough wiggle room for traffic and walking. I also stopped for some green tea chiffon cake since Austin is awesome and has Asian bakeries and I love chiffon cake.

CotA has a solid no outside food or drink policy, I understand, they want to sell concessions. No offense but none of the concessions really called out to me (cocktails not included). For Sunday I wrapped up some summer sausage, bread, cheese and a slice of that chiffon cake in a cotton scarf and put that on the seat of the camp chair I borrowed, then gently closed up the chair and tied it shut/made a strap with another scarf. They actually do check your bags and such for contraband so I got a bit creative, y'know? I am a woman of simple wants when it's super hot out and I'm outside all day. If there had been a fruit and cheese plate I would have bought it. I also brought an umbrella since there was a risk of rain and I was already a little crispy from all the sun the day before.

I was happy to have a few spots mapped out for race viewing and started the day at the bar with the tables under a tent. It was looking like it could start raining at any second and more than anything I desired a rum and Coke. Which the bartender neglected to tell me would be a rum and Pepsi until he made the drink. That's blasphemy. But I sat with my cocktail and watched a round of qualifying before deciding to go stake out my spot under the giant camera boom that I knew would be super popular. It's at the exit of a delightfully long chicane and led right into a tight turn and had a view of the back straight. A great spot. I was even able to find my Laguna friends again and we ended up using my chair and umbrella to mark our little camp. The sun came out just in time for the races to start and I had an absolute blast. The racing was really fierce and the track was beautiful.

I got lots of compliments on my Corvette jsk, as per usual and there was definitely a friendly air to the crowd. I made friendly with an Italian from Houston while waiting in a line and then when I was heading home two older Spaniards stopped me for pictures and hugs. While there wasn't quite the same friend making atmosphere that sharing a campground like Laguna Seca has it was a blast.

All in all I had a good time and will definitely go see any Moto events they have at the track. I just wish they had track side camping. But Laguna Seca probably just spoiled me on that. I really wish their website was more helpful though.

The Takeaway:
-General Admission Tickets are the best deal.
-$10 parking exists if you're willing to walk a little, the one with the last chance sign means it
-Turn 7 and between turns 14 and 15 are my favorite spots though there are lots of awesome spots.
-Nice facilities.
-Terrible advance planning/information on website


  1. I'm so sorry your fan experience didn't meet expectations. Here's a clue from a local
    Elroy native. Haywood's Hill!
    You can camp and see 40% of the circuit without mortgaging your first born. You should also search for Friends of Formula 1 Austin Texas for the latest news from our local grass roots racing community. Cheers! - Vance

    1. Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely be looking in to that for the race I go to at that track! :D

    2. Actuslly there are dozens of Elroy residents charging $10.00 to park in there pastures on the top of the hill (from FM 812 to dead man's curve). All are next to a COTA driveway or parking lot. Most charge $1.00 for bottled water. Not the $5.00 inside the track. And all are less walking then being dropped off at the bus depot. COTA isn't concerned about your fan experience, just selling you a ticket. The Elroy native's are much friendlier.