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Things Run Smoothly At F1 Track
Updated: Saturday, November 17 2012, 08:24 PM CST
The Formula One engines revved up a for a second day, as Saturday's qualifying runs capped the final day before Sunday's Grand Prix.
Track officials say more than 82,000 people attended. Turnout Friday was approximately 65,000.
With higher stakes, and higher attendance, Day Two at the Circuit of the Americas F1 track was the last trial run before the real deal Sunday.
Saturday morning, traffic was noticeably heavier than the day before as thousands of cars, along with hundreds of people on foot from makeshift lots nearby, some charging up to $40 to park, made their way to the qualifying race.
"I haven't seen a real gridlock, jam, backing up for miles, which I thought would happen," said Saru Balakrishnn, a Round Rock resident who attended an F1 race in Indianapolis. "I'm so far impressed."
"You will have to wait in line like maybe 20 minutes, but not a big deal," said Vicente Torres, who came from Mexico to see the race. Torres says he's taken both a car and the shuttle into the track and says Austin's set-up is night and day from what he experienced at an F1 race in Germany.
"It was a mess," said Torres. "Small streets, European city, two hours waiting in line."
Torres also said the Texas hospitality is far and above his previous F1 experience.
"'What are these people doing here?'" said Torres, recalling the reaction. "Like, 'They are invading our city,' while in Austin, everybody's like, 'Hey welcome.' It's pretty great."
"I'm quite impressed with Texas," said Robert Lake, who was visiting from England. "Y'all, yeah? We're getting to speak the lingo!" he laughed before adding, "Traveling around has been easy, and at the track, there's plenty of volunteer helpers."
Lake has been to two F1 races and lives near England's Silverstone track.
"The weather makes a big difference," said Lake. "If it's wet then the whole carnival experience is different."
So what could Austin do better?
"They need to improve the access roads from SH 130 to get in here," said Balakrishnn.
"All the pathways and walk areas and seating areas, they all need finishing off," said Lake.
Art Acevedo, Austin Police Chief, has also been to an F1 race.
"I don't want to declare victory just yet, but having been to another Grand Prix, I can tell you that ours is running very smooth," said Acevedo. "The Exposition Center backed up a little bit, but we were able to respond some units there and help out the Sheriff's department. Nobody's been hurt. I haven't been notified of any major incidents."
Still, Acevedo acknowledges the biggest challenge is yet to come.
"Tomorrow will be a big day, a big test," he said. "Don't rest on your laurels."
Travis County law enforcement has issued citations to people walking on the roads around the track, which isn't allowed because of a county ordinance. Lisa Block, Travis County public information officer, told us Saturday afternoon the county doesn't have numbers for how many citations have been written and likely will not have totals until Monday. She confirms there have been citations and many warnings.
Block says on Sunday, if pedestrians become an issue, deputies will issue citations. When asked how they will enforce the issue and balance traffic management, Block said the deputy will have the power to decide where the pressing need is. .
By Adam Bennett
(image from COTA)
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