Circuit to provide spectacular stage for F1 showdown

Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:11pm EST
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By Steve Keating

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The $400 million Circuit of the Americas stepped into the spotlight on Thursday as Formula One's best surveyed the track that could crown a driver's champion and breathe life into a sport largely ignored in the United States.

The eyes of the motor racing world will be focussed on Texas this weekend as Formula One returns to the U.S. after a five-year hiatus with the Circuit of the America's providing a spectacular stage for what could be a dramatic finish to the season and the start of a new era for the glamour series in a market it is determined to conquer.

Unfamiliar ground to every driver, the undulating 5.516km (3.4 mile) circuit carved out of the south Texas scrublands will provide a level playing as Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel tries to fend off a challenge from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and clinch a third consecutive driver's championship.

Unable to find a suitable long-term venue, Formula One has barnstormed its way around the U.S. with Austin becoming the 10th city to host a race after Sebring (Florida), Riverside (California), Watkins Glen (New York), Phoenix (Arizona), Dallas (Texas), Detroit (Michigan), Las Vegas (Nevada), Long Beach (California) and Indianapolis (Indiana).

But even before one of the sleek cars had turned a wheel on the track, Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone gave the circuit two thumbs up, hopeful that the long search for a permanent U.S. home had finally come to an end.

"It looks very much like a permanent circuit and I hope it remains permanent as far as Formula One goes," praised Ecclestone. "We have a contract and we would be happy to stay here.

"It's absolutely first class. All things we wanted to get done have been done.

"We've taken the good bits from all the different circuits and tried to put them together. It should make good racing."   Continued...