My first visit to Austin’s new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was to see the Boss Mustang 302R race cars compete in the first ever Grand-Am of the Americas. I had skipped the crowds and expense of the inaugural F1 race in November for what I hoped would be a more relaxed experience. I can’t compare the two, but the weekend felt just right to me. It helped that the weather was stellar, though my First Law of Track Weather remained unimpeachable – on any given weekend, at any track, it will at various times be either blazing hot or freezing cold, sometimes both simultaneously.
The COTA facility is impressive. It’s massive and pristine. The workers are friendly and the grounds are clean. The track is so new that it is almost too sterile for my taste. I’m used to Texas World Speedway, Daytona, and Sebring – tracks with history, tracks with patina. I hope in 20 years, COTA will feel the same way.
I arrived at the track on Friday with my only goals being to familiarize myself with COTA and to examine all of the Boss race cars. All of the teams were accommodating, if not friendly about me being under foot while I snapped photos of all the race engineering details that I find so interesting. Even though I was walking onto a brand new, world class F1 track in my home town for the first time, I think it is telling that the very first photo of 1600 that I snapped that weekend was a closeup of a brake setup. Nerd. Anyway, I spent a lot of time with the Roush team, because they are a very professional, well-funded team and I wanted to see how the Daytona-winning team had developed their Boss 302R.
Click on the photos to see full-sized versions (1200 x 797). Once a photo has been opened, you will be able to view all of the photos in a lightbox viewer, using arrow keys or your mouse to navigate. If you like, you can also run a slideshow of the photos. 35 photos.
The #61 car of Jack Roush, Jr. and Billy Johnson, fresh off the win at Daytona.
The engine showing some new and interesting details for 2013, like the Apollo-space-program-style gold heat shielding and two oil breather cans.
The #51 car of Joey Atterbury and Shelby Blackstock.
The Brembo Racing rep checks the new braking package, which finally brings braking performance in-line with other performance attributes of the 302R. The drivers claim the brakes are what is allowing them be more competitive this season. The Brembo rep said that it is a brand new caliper and that it will work with 15″ or 14″ rotors.
This is my very expensive upgrade path.
Jim Click’s crew working to get their car ready for practice and qualifying.
I thought I had got around to see all of the Boss Mustang race teams, when the Capaldi Racing 302R drove past me in the paddock! I had met the Capaldi team at the World Challenge Grand Prix of Utah last year. I hadn’t looked for them, because I assumed that they only raced in World challenge, but as Leo Capaldi later told me, they also do as many Grand-Am races as they can. I also hadn’t seen them, because they were literally the last team in the paddock, all the way at the end of the long row of race trailers. I hustled down there and watched the team prep their car.
The crew prepares to do an alignment.
The second practice session of the day was about to start, so I stayed out of the way and didn’t try to introduce myself. After watching for awhile, I wandered up to my seat with my pal Jeff Mangels. Our seats overlooked the Turn 12-13-14-15 complex, which is a really nice section of the track.
Even in practice, it’s nice to see Ford leading Aston Martin. I love Aston Martin, but family is family.
Roger Miller’s car in the fastest color.
The view from the pedestrian bridge over T15.
$20 for a view from the tower. No, you can’t bugee jump from it. I asked.
As race qualifying approached, I went back to the Capaldi Racing tent. It looked like they were finished with the car and just waiting for the driver to get in, so I stepped-up and introduced myself to some of the team that I recognized from Utah. They remembered me and we reminisced for a minute before Sandy Capaldi asked if I was hungry. Hungry? Ma’am, I’m always hungry. As it happenes, there was still some lunch left, so I was able to grab a fresh fajita taco. Again, I want to humbly thank the Capaldi team for their friendly hospitality. I wish I had been able to spend more time with them, but hopefully, I will see them again for the World Challenge race in May 2013.
The Capaldi Boss 302R as seen from the top of the Capaldi trailer.
With brake rotors glowing, the #5 car is overtaken under braking by the Capaldi Boss Mustang during qualifying.
Track owner Red McCombs holds court with the Roush team.
Race day! *SPOILERS* Ryan English, Jeff Mangels and myself got to the track early on Saturday and poked around a bit before things got started.
Boss 302R engine with cutaway pieces. I want one of these for my office.
Aston Martin GT race car.
The Capaldi Boss 302R.
The wild and wooley Street Tuner (ST) class. Jason Saini recovers from spinning the #3 MX-5 more than 360 degrees through the hairpin without hitting anyone and then continues on his way. Cue 007 theme for the outstanding recovery and the resultant drop to 007th place. I have the whole spin in a sequence of photos. Maybe I’ll make a gif.
The beginning of the end for the #61 Roush Mustang. After leading the race for eight laps, the #61 car is overtaken by Bill Auberlen in his BMW M3.
The #38 Porsche Carrera in hot pursuit of the #61 Roush Mustang.
The hard-charging Carrera beats the Mustang to the corner and takes 2nd place. The ever-slowing Roush would eventually pit with a fueling problem, falling all the way to 25th.
Roger Miller (#158) and Jim Click (#2) get past the #10 Camaro to place 8th, 9th, and 10th, respectively. The #158 car was the highest placing Boss Mustang of the race.
Bill Auberlen does victory donuts in his BMW M3.
After the CTSCC race, it was time for lunch. I arranged to meet my friends Naomi and Turtle at The Salt Lick. Unfortunately, that was located on the other side of the track. Sometimes, I wish everything wasn’t bigger in Texas. Whew. Big damn track.
After lunch was the fan walk along pit road.
The APR Audi R8.
Oh, hi! The Turner Motorsports BMW M3. It’s there. Just look harder, it’s right there.
After the fan walk, we made our way back to our seats for the start of the Rolex Grand-Am race.
A BMW M3 overtaken by a pack of prototypes.
Close racing between Ford and Chevy.
An intense battle towards the end of the race leaves the #01 car without an important piece of bodywork.
A little race fan watches from up-close.
The APR R8 collides with the race leader and takes him out of the race with a broken rear suspension.
The end of a perfect race weekend. I got to see more Boss race cars up-close, friendly teams, and fierce racing on a beautiful track that I’m lucky to have in my hometown. A special shout-out and thanks to Capaldi Racing and my fellow race fans that I got to see over the weekend: Jeff, Ryan, Eric, Kang, Mike, Jim, JimBo, Ty, Naomi, Turtle, Godfrey, and James. That doesn’t even count the friends-of-friends I met and the friends I knew were there, but I didn’t happen to catch. Yes, as perfect as a race weekend can get without a Boss winning, me driving, or both of those things happening simultaneously. Maybe someday.
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