Australian V8 Supercar aces love the city of Austin
Last weekend's inaugural Austin 400 at the Circuit of The Americas has left a lasting impression on both the fans of V8 Supercars in the USA and the visiting Australian teams as well.
Nearly 69,000 fans attended the inaugural event which is being hailed the most successful V8 Supercar event ever staged outside of Australia or New Zealand.
Four-time series champion Jamie Whincup dominated proceedings by taking three of the four race wins while Fabian Coulthard was successful in the opening race on Sunday.
With the first event completed, V8 Supercars and Circuit of The Americas have begun preliminary discussions on new and innovative ideas for the 2014 race to deliver an even better spectacle – on and off track – than last weekend’s highly successful event in Austin.
Winterbottom (was the first Australian V8 Supercar star to visit the circuit while still under construction last year and is now eagerly awaiting the chance to return in 2014.
“The Austin 400 exceeded all of my expectations, the circuit is first class and the hospitality of the people of Austin and the Circuit of The Americas made us feel more than welcome," Winterbottom said.
"The accessibility for fans attending the event was also very unique and it was great to meet so many fans from Texas and all over Australia and the world.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the event was a success and I hope that it paves the way for a long future for this event. The circuit layout was challenging and the weather also made it a very physical event.
“In my opinion the city of Austin is a hidden treasure. It is a place where I would like to bring my family for a holiday as it is so unique – a real hidden treasure. I have been very impressed with it and the genuine warmth of the people of Austin.
Mercedes-Benz AMG driver Lee Holdsworth was equally impressed. The Irwin Racing driver arrived in Austin early and actually threw out the first pitch for the local Triple A baseball team - the Round Rock Express.
"I thought the Austin 400 was an amazing thing for the sport and V8 Supercars should be really proud," Holdsworth said.
"The Austin people loved it and people came from all over America. I was also really surprised with the number of people who came over from Australia.
"To have nearly 69,000 people attend the event is a really impressive number and obviously V8 Supercars has a huge following on SPEED on television here in the US.
"The fans knew us, knew our names - it was a really fun week. Austin is a great city and everybody who made the trip really enjoyed it."
Jack Daniels Racing Nissan driver Rick Kelly was equally as impressed with the Austin 400 weekend. Both Rick and Todd Kelly headed to the USA early to visit the home of Jack Daniels in Tennessee as well as the Nissan Altima plant in nearby Smyrna, Tennessee.
"The Austin event was a terrific success. The V8 Supercars have raced at a number of international venues in the past few years, but none of them have been as successful as this one," said Kelly (pictured right).
"It's a long way for us to go for a motor race, but it was well worth it and we can't wait to get back there next year."
"Our Nissan Altimas were a hit in particular. No one over in the USA knows what a Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon is, but an Altima is every third car that drives past you on the road. We got so many questions about them, so it really felt like we were the 'home' team in some ways.
"This has instantly become one of the must-do V8 Supercars events.
"They estimated that there were somewhere between 2000-4000 Australians in Austin over the weekend. Once all of those people go back to Australia and tell their mates, they'll be saving up for it now. We could have 10,000 Australians there next year. How awesome would that be?"
Circuit of The Americas is quickly building a reputation as the home of major world championship class motorsport in the US. After hosting the US Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time last year, the track has added V8 Supercars and World Championship events for MotoGP and the World Endurance Championship for Le Mans-style sportscars in 2013.
The track's Formula 1 event last night was also awarded the coveted “Sports Event of the Year” award at the 2013 SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Business Awards held at the New York Marriott Marquis in Manhattan
“Anytime we introduce a new product in the marketplace it is going to take some time to build awareness and take time to develop personalities,” Circuit of The Americas, President and CEO, Steve Sexton said.
“But the personalities in V8s, the drivers are incredible, and as we go through the years we will have the opportunity to build on that.
“Our plan is to continue to develop the series and develop the personalities. We have a lot of work, not unlike we have a lot of work to do with MotoGP or ALMS (American Le Mans sports cars). It is going to take time for each of those series; promote, promote, promote, so it is going to take time.”
Judging from the comments on the Circuit of The Americas Facebook page, it appears the American fans were thrilled at the open paddock access provided to all fans over the weekend in Austin.
Comments posted online after the weekend included:
"the whole weeked was awesome.. the pit walk, and the very approachable teams, who were open to chit chat.. and answering all questions.. while they were working.. amazing.."
"Pit access was fantastic - chatted to mechanics, tire guys & even a team owner."
Approximately nine percent of fans who purchased Austin 400 tickets in advance of the race came from Australia to watch their V8 Supercar heroes compete under the red-hot Texas sun. Circuit of The Americas sold tickets to the event in more than 30 states, including Texas.
The series race cars and equipment are set to arrive back in Australia today this week as teams prepare for the next round of the series - the SKYCITY Triple Crown at Hidden Valley raceway in Darwin, Northern Territory from June 14 to 16.