Updated: Tuesday, 27 Sep 2011, 12:57 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 18 Jul 2011, 3:55 PM CDT
ELROY. Texas (KXAN) - Fifteen miles southeast of Downtown Austin, the once peaceful community of Elroy is now home to heavy machinery and a massive overhaul that will turn an ordinary prairie into an international destination.
Austin's new Formula One race track is starting to take shape. Construction on the $250 million project began in January, and even though it won't be complete until spring 2012, details of the master plan for the 1,000-acre expanse are emerging.
Compare the size to the 40 acres of the original University of Texas campus to understand the enormity of the Circuit of the Americas. It's a state-of-the-art super-structure that, so far, is scheduled to host three major racing events.
Formula One, as the headliner, has signed on for 10 years starting in June 2012, leaving roughly 11 months to finish the job. MotoGP and V8 Supercars will arrive in 2013. The drought in Central Texas has actually kept site workers on schedule for completion.
The course itself is 3.4 miles long and built like a golf Tour 18. German-based designers Hermann Tilke took segments from other popular F1 tracks in Britain, Germany, Turkey, and Brazil to create a combination circuit.
The natural contours of the Hill Country, however, will make the Circuit of the Americas a one-of-a-kind.
Turn 1 will be the signature feature of the track. It is an uphill climb down the front straightaway, capping off an unprecedented elevation change of 133 feet, into a tight corner which will shoot the drivers off into the rest of the course. The lowest point is between turns 19 and 20.
Each of the 20 turns is marked by a numbered flag during construction to help map the route. Dallas-based Austin Commercial Contracting has carved out the earth using global positioning system satellites to make precision cuts and pieced it together like a puzzle.
KXAN News staff took a lap around the track in an all-terrain vehicle driven by one of the site workers, and the dirt road contours of the course were enough to get the adrenaline pumping with imagination.
It's one of only four circuits worldwide that run counterclockwise, and drivers will hit maximum speed down the back stretch.
But you don't have to be behind the wheel to get a good seat. The complex will have grandstands, recreational vehicle parks, bleachers and berms to accommodate 120,000-plus fans on race day, forever shifting the landscape of Austin sports.
A recent Austin City Council vote gave Circuit of the Americas access to the state's major events trust fund, but requires a few items in return. Developers must include $5 million in green technology research, $15,000 in carbon offsets, like planting thousands of trees, and a community garden.
The complex was already planned to include space for live entertainment, a conference center and emergency service training academies.
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