Let me first say that the track itself is very impressive, between the climb to the Turn 1, the esses, and the long straights, it appears to be a very technical track with lots of variety. Also I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to walk the pits, get up close to the cars, check out the back of the garage area, and walk the Conti paddock (see the photos here). Hearing, or perhaps “feeling” is more appropriate, the Astons’ exhaust note may have been worth the price of admission.  That was the good.

The bad: I do realize the track is relatively new, but it felt very unfinished. Relatively new, but this track hosted F1 back in November, I would have thought it would be more groomed than it appeared. Most of the area surrounding the track had a construction site feel to it. There is absolutely no shade anywhere unless you are tucked up under the grand-stands. Not too bad for a March race, but I’m a bit worried about V8 Supercars in May.

My biggest disappointment was there was no real sense of festivity to the occasion. I was expecting the likes of NASCAR (albeit a little more civilized), College Football atmosphere and the like. There was no camping (that I’m aware of) available, no RVs in the infield, no one carting around coolers, no BBQ grilles going. Just people sitting in temporary scaffolding stands, drinking $10 12oz beers.

The staff at COTA were very friendly. I do however have one complaint, the security folks on the bridges. If I stepped out of the foot traffic for a mere minute to snap a photo of the cars whizzing by, they would come up and say “move along.” One instance there were quite literally four spectators (myself included) and three security guards on the entire bridge, they they asks us to move along. Really?

I signed up for the BMW car corral, thinking it would be an actual corral. In reality it was just a set aside parking lot, outside the track. No one was hanging around the cars, well… because it was outside the facility and just a parking lot.

I’ve only attended one other Grand Am event, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL. If you want to know what right looks like, attend the event there. I was able to camp on the grounds, BBQing with my friends and fellow fans. There were trees for shade, a trolley to move spectators around the track, plenty of amenities. It felt like an “event” rather than just watching something live, which is what COTA felt like. At Barber, the car corrals were labeled according to their marque, roped off and parked on grass right beside the track. People spent time viewing all the cars, because they were accessible, not in a distant asphalt parking lot outside the gate.

While there may be more negatives than positives to this review, I sincerely hope the folks at COTA take it as constructive criticism and implement some improvements. Like I said, the track is new and definitely has potential if some changes are made. Otherwise you are better off watching the race on TV.


Tags: , ,