AUSTIN (KXAN) - Nearly 83,000 packed the the new Circuit of The Americas racetrack on Saturday for the qualifying runs in advance of the big race on Sunday.
Race organizers and city officials got high marks from many of the fans who began lining up as early as 5 a.m. to board a shuttle bus to the track in Elroy.
One downside was that a mechanical problem was causing MetroRail trains to be delayed by about 40 minutes late in the afternoon. Capital Metro said schedules was returned to normal by about 6:30 p.m.
Getting to and from the track for some of the 82, 710 race fans was an exercise in the nontraditional. In addition to 700 taxicabs and 300 limosuines pressed into service, there were also 500 pedicabs, and even some on horseback.
Most of the initial reports surrounding the handling of the F1-related crowds were upbeat.
"All have done a fine job making this a great event for Texas & US," Gov. Rick Perry posted on his Twitter account around noon along with a photo from inside the track.
The governor's sentiments were echoed by people who lined up to attend Saturday's events.
"We didn't have to wait at all," said race fan David Riddle whose day started before sun-up so he and his son could attend Saturday's practice runs and time trials. Once they navigated the maze of cattle gates that led to the shuttles, he added, "We didn't stop walking until we got on the bus."
Once at the track, fans could watch drivers' had one last practice session that started at 9 a.m., and then the actual qualifying runs.
And the flow of fans became a strong, steady stream by 8:30 a.m., just an hour after the track gates opened at 7:30 a.m.
The action at the track culminates on Sunday when the gates at the track open at 7:30 a.m. for the first U.S. Grand Prix in Texas. Pre-race festivities kick off at 12:30 p.m. The race starts at 1 p.m. About 120,000 fans are expected.
Country music artist Clay Walker will perform a free concert for fans in the Grand Plaza following the Formula 1 race.
On Saturday, hundreds of people were in line for the shuttles at 15th and Trinity streets by 6:30 a.m., and the first five shuttles had already taken off with the early birds by 6:55 a.m.
That meant hundreds of people were already ready and in line hoping to get to the Circuit of the Americas as soon as the action started Saturday morning.
From the city's emergency management system:
For those returning from the track by personal vehicle, consider SH 21 as an alternate route to SH 130 or IH 35.
There is no park and ride at the Circuit of The Americas Track.
No pedestrian traffic is allowed along the roadways near the track; citations are being issued by Travis County deputies.
Pearce Lane from the track switched directions at 12:30 p.m. to one-way west bound from the Circuit of the Americas between Kellam Rd. and SH 130.
Two-way traffic will continue on FM 812; three lanes will lead traffic away from the track and one lane will remain open in the opposite direction.
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