F1 fans to camp out for Austin F1 race
Aside from staying at a friend's house, the cheapest place to stay for November's planned Formula One race will probably be one of several campsites near the circuit in southeastern Travis County.
Camping, both in tents and RVs, is common near racetracks around the world and offers people an inexpensive place to stay with like-minded fans without the hassle of traffic.
"It is the expected way to go for the British GP," Rachel Clarke, a Formula One fan who lives in London, told the American-Statesman recently. "You get up, get to the track and spend the whole day there. Then it's back to the campsite, where you spend the evening talking about the day, what will happen tomorrow and just reliving the whole experience. It's a lot of fun."
Circuit of the Americas near Austin has no plans to offer tent camping but is flexible, spokeswoman Ali Putnam said.
Ticket-holders who arrive on foot will be turned away, organizers have said, though on-site parking will be available for people with tickets to premium grandstands. Others will arrive via shuttles from park-and-ride lots downtown and at the Travis County Exposition Center in East Austin. Bicycling is also being encouraged; the circuit will have dedicated parking lots near the track.
All of the 85 campsites and six screened shelters at McKinney Falls State Park off U.S. 183 near the circuit are booked for the F1 weekend, Nov. 16 to 18, Janie Reeh, McKinney Falls' assistant park superintendent, said last week.
"That weekend has been booked up since the first part of June," Reeh said. "Usually, that weekend doesn't start booking up until early October or late September."
The weekend before the race is two-thirds booked, and the weekend prior to that is "not hardly booked at all," Reeh said. Nov. 19 is two-thirds booked, and the weekend following Thanksgiving is about half full, which is not unusual, she said. The first weekend in December is hardly booked, she said.
The 85 campsites can accommodate tents and RVs and have water and electric hookups. The cost is $20 to $24 a night, plus a park entry fee of $6 a person older than 13, she said. Discounts are available for people older than 65.
Six screened shelters that sleep eight at the 725-acre park cost $46 a night, Reeh said.
A little farther east, two parks on Lake Bastrop owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority have not seen an increase in reservations for F1 weekend, spokeswoman Clara Tuma said. That means general camping in RVs or tents with electric and water hookups are available for $15 or $20 with a septic hookup, Tuma said.
The park on the lake's south shore also has several cabins available for $45, she said.
Bastrop State Park has not seen an increase in camping reservations for the planned F1 race, park Superintendent Roger Dolle said. The park outside of Bastrop offers tent and RV camping for $10 to $20 a night. Air-conditioned cabins that sleep up to eight and have water, electricity and fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms are priced from $80 to $200 nightly.
All three parks charge a $4 daily entrance fee for adults. Children younger than 12 are free.
England's Silverstone circuit, which hosts the British Grand Prix, operates a campsite near the circuit. Other campsites nearby are operated by local farmers and other organizations, circuit spokeswoman Katie Tyler said.
An estimated 127,000 people turned out for the July 8 grand prix, organizers have said, despite torrential rains earlier that weekend that turned campsites and grass parking lots into mudpits. Between 30,000 and 35,000 of those fans stayed at nearby campsites, Tyler said.
The circuit's campgrounds allow tent and RV camping and are split up into family campsites and "lively" campsites, Tyler said.
"It's mostly groups of young adults," he said. "We like to keep them separate."
Both sections cost 60 pounds (about $94) a person for the entire weekend; 20 pounds (about $31)for children, Tyler said. People must purchase a race ticket to be allowed to camp, she said.
Clarke, the British fan who said she has camped near Silverstone for the past two years, said she saw families, couples and "groups of married men who are treating this as a boys weekend away."
"Day to day, you don't always meet a lot of fellow fans. But you're surrounded by them camping, and everyone is in it together," Clarke said. "You'll find the same group of people often camp together and treat it as a fun holiday with friends. People book the same plots again and again — keeping it together. It becomes a tradition." The Statesman