Formula One racing returns to Texas

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by MARCUS MOORE

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WFAA

Posted on October 21, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 12:49 AM

AUSTIN — Some are saying the upcoming Formula One (or F1) race in Austin will be the equivalent of the Super Bowl.

That's a description that may be hard for many in the U.S. to believe, but F1 enjoys a massive global audience. Some estimates suggest that half a billion people follow F1 worldwide.

Now — for the first time since 2007 — Formula One is back in the U.S., bringing along with it the glitz and glamor of what some argue is the pinnacle of motor racing.

Drivers in the most technologically advanced cars on the planet compete at tracks across the globe. In November, the new Circuit of The Americas, southeast of Austin, will play host.

"The day is finally here," said famed racing driver Mario Andretti. "We are rejoicing."

Andretti drove the first official laps during an opening ceremony on Sunday. Speeding down the straightaway in a black-and-gold 1979 Lotus F1 car, he helped add to the spectacle that is F1.

"It's a big motor sports circus," said Barry Mortimer, who works with the Lotus F1 team based in Oxfordshire, England. "Everyone wants to see the awesome technology."

Still, Formula One in the U.S. has a much smaller following, compared to other countries. During the visit to Austin, Mortimer said he and his English team members huddled around a TV and watched the Texas vs. Baylor game on Saturday night.

"F1 needs to be the show that football is," for the sport to reach the same kind of popularity in the U.S., Mortimer said.

November's Texas race is already sold out. Some of the cheapest tickets you'll find are online, but they're still pricey at around $300.

Some sellers are asking thousands of dollars for tickets to the best seats — all for a sport where few in Texas can name the top drivers, and in which you will find no Americans behind the wheel.

But with a first-of-its-kind track built here in Texas, some believe that could all change. Not only putting Texas on the motor sports map, but making the U.S. once again a stop for that traveling motor sports circus.

New Jersey is expected to host a street race in 2014; Dallas staged an F1 race in 1984.

E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com

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