A Circuit Built for Competition: Circuit of The Americas
During the first BlackBook Motorsport Direct event of 2023, Chairman and Co-Founder of Circuit of The Americas, Bobby Epstein, tuned in to chat with Motorsports Presenter and Commentator Harry Benjamin about the impact COTA and F1 have had in the United States and the longevity of motorsport.
BlackBook Motorsport Direct is a series of virtual conferences for leading motorsport experts to talk about the most important topics facing the industry, including circuits and their promoters. From his office in the Paddock at Circuit of The Americas, Epstein provided insight on how COTA came to be and what the team has learned over the past decade.
The idea for COTA sparked when Epstein realized that land by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was no longer going to be used for previously planned housing. As a follower of premier motorsports and a dedicated University of Texas Longhorn alumni, aka Texas Ex, Epstein, alongside his co-founders, had a lightbulb moment: Bring Formula 1 to Austin.
“I really thought this was a great opportunity to do something for the community, for where we live. As well as something we can make some profit on, and we’d have some fun with and make a big difference.”
Epstein revealed that Austin’s own growth prospects in addition to COTA’s proximity to the city played major contributing factors. “The more that we talked about it and thought about it, the more we looked at this as an opportunity to build a world-class entertainment destination.”
In 2012, COTA was honored to host the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix since 2007, which gave the venue a tremendous start-up advantage, tempting crowds from the get-go.
For Epstein, his goal for COTA is to “make this a place people want to come to, have fun and build memories with friends and family.”
Further into the conversation, Host Harry Benjamin asked Bobby Epstein about the positive impacts the venue has had in the local community and the city of Austin. Epstein then mentioned that there was a lot of resistance and skepticism at the beginning. “Our first years…we had a lot of people leave town because they were hearing about the masses that would come and the traffic jams that would happen,” Epstein said.
However, over the past 10 years, hosting F1 in Austin has helped businesses and the regional economy flourish. Hotels and restaurants are booked months in advance, local vendors see thousands of jobs form for the event, and people from all over the world come to spend time and invest in the Texas Capital during the F1 USGP weekend. “That alone is a great impact and has a wonderful lasting effect,” Epstein said.
COTA not only brings business to Austin and its surrounding areas with major events, but also takes pride in getting involved with and giving back to the community. From partnering up with non-profits to providing experiences for under-served groups to hosting mass vaccinations at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, COTA does “a lot of good in the community, both financially and interactively.”
When asked about the newer additions to the F1 calendar, specifically the Miami GP and Las Vegas GP, Epstein assured that COTA welcomes the opportunity to increase F1 fandom in the U.S. The United States is currently the only country to host three F1 Grand Prix weekends, with races spanning coast to coast and talks for even more to be added.
“COTA is a circuit that is built for competition. All three events right now are so uniquely different, that all three can survive,” Epstein said.
While wrapping up the virtual event, Benjamin asked Epstein’s opinion on the longevity of motorsports in the United States. Epstein affirmed, “I think it is sustainable. You look at some sporting events that were on TV such as the Indianapolis 500 and the Kentucky Derby, why do people still go to them? Well, people had to go to experience them, it became a tradition.”
“Once you have tradition, it is a great fuel to take you forward for a lot of years,” remarked Epstein.
Conversation was shortened for clarity. View the entire interview at the video above.