With six months to go, Austin on track for F1 race

Six months.

That's all the time remaining until Austin and Circuit of the Americas host the first Formula One Grand Prix in the United States in five years.

The scramble to welcome the world in November could turn out to be more frantic than the U.S. Grand Prix itself. After all, the 3.4-mile track has yet to be poured, the buildings are only shells, the traffic plan is still a work in progress, hotels are waiting for the big rush on their high-priced rooms, and race tickets for the general public aren't yet for sale.

But then, the uncertainty and the intrigue that have surrounded the circuit and its F1 race are part of what has made the $300 million project so fascinating for Austinites to follow.

"We're forced to check it out," said TicketCity CEO Randy Cohen. "Just like we have to go outside to check out the lightning during a storm."

Last week, rainstorms again pummeled the 1,100-acre site in southeastern Travis County. The area has now received about 20 inches of rain this year, just about double the average.

"We lost a couple of days" because of the rain, said circuit President Steve Sexton.

He added, however, "We're highly confident we're going to make our schedule."

Circuit Chairman Bobby Epstein and Peter Wahl, managing partner of the German engineering firm Tilke GmbH, also have maintained that the circuit's construction is on pace. For the past few months, crews have been working around the clock.

Nick Craw, the United States' highest-ranking member of auto racing's governing body, FIA, declined to say how the most recent inspection of the circuit had gone but said the next one would be in June.

Sexton said that work on the circuit's main boulevard has begun and that paving of some areas, mainly parking lots, was under way. Sexton said not a lot of interior work would be needed on the circuit's main structure, the mammoth paddock.

"The paddock building is very large, but it's basically a shell," Sexton said. "The F1 teams bring all their own stuff." The Statesman

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