An estimated 90 per cent of Austin’s Circuit of the Americas has been resurfaced over the past two years in a bid to appease MotoGP riders.
The consensus was damning after the world championship’s most recent visit to Texas back in October, with multiple top flight riders condemning the track as dangerous and in need of a generous overhaul. The work has since been done, and then some.
COTA has in fact resurfaced turns 12 through 16 alongside the minimum requirement of the opening half of the layout from turn two through ten already discussed. Those two specific corners have also undergone a full foundation restructuring with concrete reinforcement added in an attempt to prevent or diminish further issues.
It’s a considerable project, with the circuit bosses choosing to go all in rather than paper over the cracks, analysing the asphalt and extending the work in a bid to compensate for the range of environmental factors at play in the southern state. Despite a bitterly cold and unseasonable January, work completed last week to positive response.
“I would say almost 90 per cent of the track's been repaved in the last two years,” Leo Garcia, COTA’s VP of Facilities and Track Operations confirmed while speaking to Speed City Radio on Sunday night.
“The hairpin at 11 and then the front straight, basically from just past the apex of 19 all the way through the bottom of the hill at turn one is the old stuff. I would say about 90, maybe over 90 per cent of the track's been repaved.”
Former WorldSBK commentator Jonathan Green - alongside co-hosts John Massengale and Les Kiser - was quick to dig into the details of the recent work and its importance to the upcoming MotoGP and MotoAmerica visits scheduled for early April.
“First step was to take all the data we had from the asphalt,” Garcia explained. “We sent it to Texas A&M for review to see if there's any advice that they would give the paving company of maybe adjusting to polymers, anything that may have to do with the weather and the installation process. They came on site and brought a couple of pieces of equipment, ground penetrating radar, some lidar, they did some 3D mapping on the track and then they used the ground penetrating radar to look at multiple areas throughout the track that we feel might have had some anomalies that would have caused some of the issues. At turn ten it was very evident for us.
“We did some excavation and we realised that there was a piece of conduit that was probably flexing at turn 10, that caused some of that indentations there. So that was kind of an easy fix, but turn two was probably the bigger problem. They suggested that we reinforced the foundation so what we've done is added about ten inches of reinforced concrete, reinforced rebar and created our own zone of compactation at turns two, and we did the same thing at turn ten. We think that those two changes that we made will allow us to keep those indentations from coming back up.
“After that, basically the company came in and did the paving. They had already done the milling and they use GPS systems, what they call profiling to make sure the track was smooth, even though there's indentations all over the place, we cut the track smooth, so then they come in and pave over it. It's a special mix. It's not a mix that you find anywhere. It has to be made, different polymers, different rock sizes, different hardeners so the contractor typically has to change the machines that cut the rock to make it smaller for us, so it's a big process.
“We paved 12 through 15 first, and I think the transition at 12 all the way through, it’s amazing,” he continued.
It's super smooth. We've done a couple of tests on it in one of the cars and we think the transition and the way everything flows, it's a massive, massive improvement.
“We did a little bit of work at 12 because we got some complaints of different levels as the cars were coming across the apex. So we milled that back two inches, levelled everything out then repaved on top of that and again, that transition, I think it's almost seamless now.
“I think those transitions also from two all the way to ten now are in great shape and super smooth, especially the esses - that probably hasn't been that smooth, probably since installation. So I think it's going to make the track super fast, super safe. I think the drivers are going to be more aggressive there and we'll see some of that speed carry through that area.”
Speaking of the demanding nature of MotoGP and the Championship’s needs, Garcia confirmed the close working relationship between the circuit and the power’s that be, with FIM Grand Prix Safety Officer Franco Uncini in regular contact.
“Franco and I have become pretty good friends,” the Texan confirmed, “We communicate regularly, so I keep them up to date, and typically I'll create a report and show them everything we've done. Obviously they're very demanding and there is a different level of expectations as far as how smooth the track is [compared to F1 and other four wheel classes]. We have some transitions that we have to work out. There are some areas where the rumble strips meet the new asphalt that just don't line up exactly, so we'll have to come back and make some adjustments to some of those areas. That's the next phase that we're working on but before we get ahead of ourselves, we also want Franco to come on site and drive around the track and just kind of get a feel for the things that we've already done.
“I can attest the track looks amazing. It's super smooth, I think it's going to be very effective. The esses hadn’t been done since obviously, the beginning. We've milled it a couple times. So those bumps were kind of there for a while but now it's really smooth. I had to slow the car down when I was driving because it couldn't stick to the ground, it just transitions so fast now.
“I think there are going to be some adjustments to how fast they go into the area, that they can kind of carry the speed but I think the riders and the drivers are going to be pretty happy with it.”
The facility is green-lit for track days from the end of this week, and with a formal inspection expected in the coming month, Austin’s scheduled return to its April slot on the 2022 MotoGP calendar looks to be on track for a successful showing.