Circuit of the Americas in Austin on ‘limited use’ from COVID-19

MotoGP Grand Prix Americas
Thomas B. Shea/AFP via Getty Images
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The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has disrupted many racing series, and it now has led to the suspension of major operations at a racetrack.

The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, announced in a statement that it essentially is going on hiatus as restrictions take effect on large gatherings.

COTA chairman Bobby Epstein told the Austin American-Statesman that events that would have drawn  nearly 600,000 visitors to the facility over the next three months had been canceled, postponed or placed in jeopardy. The American-Statesman reported that Epstein confirmed a “reduced staff” without specifying how many remained at the track.

The American-Statesman and Associated Press both reported the track was “indefinitely closed,” but a track spokesperson disputed that characterization and said “COTA is working with a smaller workforce to keep all afloat so when we can safely be on the other side of this pandemic we can be fully functioning once again.”

“COTA is an amphitheater, racetrack, sports stadium, conference center and place where fans and friends come together to create lasting memories,” the statement read. “Without concerts, races and games, we have limited use. … We are heartbroken for our employees (and their families) who spend all year preparing to welcome guests from Austin and all around the globe but now find themselves without work.”

Two major racing events recently were scrubbed at the track. The MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas has been rescheduled from April 5 to Oct. 25. The IndyCar Challenge on April 26 has been canceled.

The track plays host to the Austin Bold’s games in the United Soccer League, which has suspended its season.

COTA also is a concert venue, but its shows are on hold with Austin banning large gatherings through at least May 1.

Formula One is scheduled to race Oct. 25 at the Austin track.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III