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117,000 Fans Attend Austin's Inaugural Formula 1 US Grand Prix
Updated: Sunday, November 18 2012, 08:39 PM CST
As nearly 120,000 fans slowly but steadily made their way out of the Circuit of the Americas track following the first Formula One race on American soil in five years, nearly every fan had few to no complaints about Austin’s first go-around at hosting the race.
Sunday was make or break for Austin’s Formula One plan, put to the test early Sunday morning hours ahead of the race, as thousands of cars poured into the track.
“Easy, drove right in,” said Brad Filbey, who was visiting from Chicago. "Parked across the street for $40. These guys didn't decide to take parking until Friday. They made $8,000 yesterday."
Those lots also meant hundreds of pedestrians on the county roads, many keeping law enforcement busy warning them to stay out of the road as they managed the rush of vehicles. Travis County officials telling us deputies have issued citations and should have the number available Monday.
“I haven’t seen anything,” said Filbey. "The police have been very helpful."
"We had no problem getting here, getting around,” said Ricky Kannothra, an F1 fan who had been to a previous race in Indianapolis. “Very well organized."
Fans lined the grandstands and lawns early, many decked out for their favorite teams after years of waiting.
"I was emotional Friday when I went to the bar and there were all these F1 fans around,” said Kannothra.
Behind the grandstands, Tavo Hellmund, a promoter instrumental in bringing the race to Austin, expressed confidence the race was here to stay.
"I just think it's gonna be a huge impact for the city, and I’m glad a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon," said Hellmund.
Also behind the pit building were celebrities such as Ron Howard and Matt LeBlanc, heads of state such as Mexican president Felipe Calderon and other government officials.
"I've heard from people all around the world that they've been to a lot of tracks, a lot of races, but they've never had the hospitality of which they've seen here," said Gov. Rick Perry.
When asked if state money should be used to bring an event like Formula One to Texas, he replied, “Absolutely. We probably wouldn't have had it otherwise without the state's involvement. Five hundred million people around the world (watching the race) hearing really great things about Austin, Texas, and the state of Texas. I would suggest to you that may be close to priceless.”
Still, on Sunday, the focus at the track was all about racing. As the cars made their way around the track, teams behind the pit building were already breaking down equipment to send to Brazil for next weekend’s race. The checkered flag waved two hours later, marking the end of Austin’s first F1 race, and one many fans and drivers hope will be one of many in years to come.
“I pray it is,” said aid Lewis Hamilton, the winner of the race. “It’s been the biggest reaction we’ve ever seen.”
City officials say many of the fans will leave Monday, making it one of the busiest days of the year for the airport.
By Adam Bennett
(Photo from COTA)
Austin Fan Fest
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