Choice of land made COTA a great track – designer

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Christian Epp, the lead architect who worked on designing the Circuit of the Americas, says the key to building a challenging circuit is getting a suitable peice of land.

Epp, who works for track architects Tilke, was approached by Austin race promoter Tavo Hellmund “in 2008/2009”. The pair began investigating potential sites together with motorcycling world champion Kevin Schwantz.

“We were lucky enough to choose a piece of land where we can play,” Epp, who said the sinuous opening sector of the lap as “plays with the topography”.

Being able to choose the land makes it “much easier for us,” said Epp, “gives us more opportunity to create an exciting race track”.

Hellmund and Schwantz had big plans for the track layout, which they wanted to incorporate similar corners to those found on F1’s greatest circuits.

“We had a meeting with Tavo and Kevin Schwantz at the beginning where we basically checked the wish list of what they wanted. And it began ‘OK Christian, we want elements like Eau Rouge, we want the corkscrew, we want like Suzuka, we want Maggotts/Becketts section…’ So we began doing the list basically and we came up I think with ten or fifteen different turns that they liked.”

They then had to trim back the number of such corners they included on the track. “Once you want to incorporate one of these features you’re very limited,” Epp explained. “You can do maybe three or four of these features but for sure not ten.”

Epp added the FIA’s tight regulations on circuit design would make recreating a classic circuit such as Spa or Suzuka impossible.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

Audi Sport
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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”