The nice folks at Michelin invited me down to Austin’s Circuit of The Americas for a full race weekend highlighted by the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship. The last time I was in Austin, Texas was a September, about 20 years ago. I remember some great bars, some friendly locals and scorching temperatures. Two decades later, the bars are still hopping. And it is still way too hot. Plus rain.
The 251-foot Observation Tower at Circuit of The Americas has a double-helix staircase with 419 individual stairs leading up to the partial glass observation platform. It also has an elevator. Since the air temperature was 197 degrees with 162 percent humidity, I opted for the latter to reach the top to take some photos.
From the top of the Tower you can really get sense of the size of the facility. Like all things in Texas—except for me, Leo Parente and Allan McNish—it’s big. The colors bordering the track create some nice visual interest to make up for the overall flatness of the land. But any hope for a cooling breeze at that height was quickly dashed.
Looking down from the Tower you get a great view of the tops of the cars, even better than the banking at Daytona. While shooting the Tudor race I caught the #910 Porsche 911 RSR, piloted by Patrick Pilet, get forced into the Flying Lizard Audi R8 LMS. Lighting up the rears like an NHRA veteran, Pilet quickly got back under way, leaving a nice smoke show in his wake to distract his fellow competitors.
Fortunately the deluge held off until the WEC cars were on track. And it was epic; as I observed from the very cool and perfectly dry Michelin hospitality suite. Which gave me the opportunity to speak with Michelin’s Motorsports Manager Silvia Mammone and learn more about their revolutionary hybrid racing slick designed for damp and intermediate conditions. Seems illogical but it works. No grooves at all, but the tire sticks in the wet. Compound magic.
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