Great news for Austin. It looks as if the formula track will be done on time for the first Austin Race. I can’t wait!
By John Maher
Updated: 11:47 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Published: 8:44 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, 2012
As a managing partner with Tilke GmbH, Peter Wahl has made periodic trips to Austin to see how construction was faring at the $300 million Circuit of the Americas being built in southeastern Travis County.
On Wednesday, before he returned to Germany, Wahl said that he made trips to Austin and the 3.4-mile circuit in January and February but that now, “It’s time to say it’s OK. It will work.”
Wahl added that he was excited and even surprised to see what he called “fantastic progress” that had been made since his last visit.
“I can already say we will be ready earlier than November,” said Wahl, who said he has seen the construction of 56 racetracks around the world. “I’m sure it will meet all the requirements of Formula One. … It will be one of the best tracks in the world.”
Wahl and Christian Epp, the engineer overseeing the project for Tilke, said construction has been going on virtually around the clock recently. They said that would not last much longer, perhaps a couple of weeks. They said earth work was involved and that crews were taking advantage of the weather to get it completed.
“This will stop. Once that is finalized, we’ll go back to normal,” Epp said.
Both Wahl and Epp said they were impressed with some of the construction techniques used by general contractor Austin Commercial, including those that allowed the walls and roof of the media/conference center to go up in a matter of days.
“The Americans know how to put in big machinery,” Wahl said.
Epp said one recent visitor to the track site was Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez, who is slated to be Sauber’s reserve driver for the coming season.
“I believe he will be a key figure, to draw the Mexican fans,” Epp said.
Both Wahl and Epp also are working with New Jersey, which is scheduled to have an F1 Grand Prix in 2013. It will be a street race on a temporary circuit.
“It’s a completely different animal,” Epp said. “It’s more of an event.”
He added that he didn’t believe the Austin and New Jersey races would conflict.
“I believe there can be a synergy,” he said. “It’s easier to have two tracks to promote rather than one. I see that as a benefit for both if you play it right.”
Of the track’s construction, Wahl said, “It’s like creating a baby. We are now still pregnant, but we know already that it will be born.”