AUSTIN (KXAN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry was among the more than 120,000 people who filled the Circuit of The Americas track for the inaugural Formula One race in Austin on Sunday and made no secret that the event lived up to its world-class billing.
"A lot of the naysayers said this wouldn't work in Texas," Perry told KXAN during a tour of the sparkling new track's paddock area before the race began. "Those few naysayers were proved absolutely wrong."
F1 expert John Bisignano told KXAN on Sunday that the race will put Austin front and center for an estimated 350 million people who will watch the race on TV around the world.
"This is the biggest show on Earth," Bisignan said during KXAN's special coverage from near the Circuit of The Americas track an hour before race time.
Starting before dawn, thousands of Formula One race fans crammed into shuttle buses or took their own vehicles to the Circuit of The Americas track east of Austin for the first U.S. Grand Prix ever in Austin, and the first in the country since the late 1990s.
By noon, the grandstands were filling up and the high-performance cars roaring around the twisting, turning track in practice runs and preliminary events.
The buses rolled out from two locations in Austin at about 7 a.m. But race fans began lining to catch a ride to the track up before dawn to be in place for the 1 p.m. start time. By 11 a.m., an estimated 14,200 people had boarded the shuttles and 1,000 more were expected before the race started.
Officials turned Pearce Lane on the way to the track to a one-way street early Sunday. All lanes were converted to create one eastbound thoroughfare east of State Highway 130. After the race, afternoon lanes will be reversed to become westbound.
Throughout the morning, officials said traffic was heavy, but moved steadily. Traffic management officials monitored and made adjustments as necessary to keep traffic moving, the said.
People departing the race were advised to take State Highway 21 as an alternate route to State Highway 130.
Most fans interviewed by KXAN said they were happy with the service. But a few complaints were heard, including that some buses didn't have handicap access and that a 45-minute walk followed the drop-off point to the actual track.
"They didn't tell us that if you don't buy a parking pass, ride the shuttle, you're going to have to walk a mile and a half," said race fan John Garvey
But Brigitte Ross was well satisfied with the experience. "Oh, it's great!" she said "They've really got it figured out. It's go, go, go."
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