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.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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