COTA learn from Silverstone trip

  • Last Updated: July 11 2012, 14:29 BST

The organisers of the United States Grand Prix believe a fact-finding mission to Silverstone over the weekend proved to be an invaluable lesson into how to cope with adversity.

Silverstone: Provided plenty of lessons

Circuit of the Americas (COTA) president Steve Sexton was joined by vice-president for guest services Tom Schneider, and Julie Loignon, vice president of public and community relations, in running the rule over the Northamptonshire circuit during their staging of the British Grand Prix.

Their visit, however, coincided with Silverstone facing its most significant crisis since 2000 as heavy rain reduced car parks to swamps and, on Friday in particular, produced horrendous traffic jams.

Initially it appeared to be a case of 'how not to run an event', but Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips was able to turn the situation around come Sunday as the race proved to be as popular as ever with a 125,500 crowd in attendance.

With COTA gearing up for their Formula One debut in November, Sexton told Press Association Sport: "In Silverstone's case they have a significant amount of camping and grass parking.

"They just happened to have had an inordinate amount of rain and it's hard to plan for double the rainfall in a given year.

"It just shows you, when you have major events there are a lot of things that can happen.

"You have to learn how to react to those variables. Ideally you have plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H and you try and plan for everything you possibly can.

"But there are always going to be new variables that attack and approach you as a venue operator."

Sexton is happy to admit the COTA venue in Austin will have no problems with either the weather or with parking to undermine their cause in staging America's first F1 race for seven years.

"The weather in November is fantastic," said Sexton.

"The University of Texas does not have a football game on our race weekend, but when they do they draw over 100,000 people. It's a great time to be in Texas.

"Parking should not be a problem. We have about 20,000 spots on site of paved parking, grass parking.

"But our traffic plan allows for a major shuttle operation so if you don't have a parking pass or spot you have to take a shuttle which will streamline the efficiency of cars and buses coming on property and dropping people off.

"It's not unlike what you would see at an Olympic event, a Superbowl event or other very large-scale American events."

At present building work is on schedule, with Sexton anticipating any last-minute issues to be "small scale".

The last two new grands prix on the calendar, Korea and India, were not granted their racing licences to host F1 until days before the race took place.

Sexton is convinced COTA will be ready well in advance, adding: "We're making more progress than we thought we'd make, and we're on schedule to complete.

"(FIA safety delegate) Charlie Whiting was on site three weeks ago, took a look and said we're doing fantastic. He was very pleased.

"Within the next week we'll have at least the first layer of asphalt laid around the entire circuit. We're really close right now.

"The drainage is being laid, and we have a lot of temporary seating that will start going up next month.

"The permanent features of the circuit are all under a roof, and the interior work is being done right now.

"The fencing, debris fencing and railings are all going in; part of the TecPro (safety barrier) system is on site, and the roads are being cut in, so we're in great shape in this area.

"Never say never, but I think the details we will be dealing with at the end of the day will be the smaller issues."

That will undoubtedly please F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who met with Sexton last week ahead of the British Grand Prix for an update on progress.

With tickets sales so far proving strong, Sexton said: "Bernie seems happy at the moment.

"For a world-class international stage it takes high standards to get the recognition and respect you need to ensure it turns into a brand, and continues to be a brand fans love worldwide.

"When he brings his show to town we want to make sure it's a great one, that everything functions smoothly and is a wonderful experience for fans and the teams."