The trip started out the right way when I landed in upbeat city of Austin and walked into the amazing Renaissance Austin Hotel. The friendly staff, glamorous décor and modern room set up made me truly feel like I was VIP the second I got there! It was clean, quiet, comfortable and extremely private. This made the nights after traveling and being on the racetrack much more enjoyable.
Friday morning, I dreaded waking up to catch the bus, but that all changed once I got on. Our bus was waiting right in front with people from all over the world climbing on for their VIP race experience.
On the 20-minute ride to the track, I met (and was very entertained by) V8 Supercars™ fans from the U.S., Australia, England and more. Not only was it fun to hear the wide range of accents, but it was shocking to hear how far many of these fans traveled to be there – ranging from 45 minutes to 30 hours!
When we got to the track, we were dropped off right in front of the Circuit of The Americas. Out of excitement just to be there, I took the first hour or so to walk around the track, experiencing all of the vendors, live music and perfect views from all of the seating options – starting with the 13-story-high Turn 1. I then hopped on the Circuit of The Americas Experiences shuttle to take a tour of the track, since there was no way I was going to walk the 4+ miles around!
Touring the venue was exciting, but boy was it hot! Luckily, the COTA Experiences team understood the long practice day and 100-degree temperature, and opened the hospitality suite to its guests for cold drinks, air conditioning and shaded seating.
Around 6:30 p.m., all of the VIP guests did a Pit Lane walk to see the race cars up close, while watching pit lane crews do their magic and hearing the intensity of the engines roaring. (Word of advice - BRING YOUR EARPLUGS!)
This was also a good time for all of us to get some pictures on the track, whether it’s for bragging rights or memories!
The next day was exciting, because it was the start of the races AND the full hospitality experience! We had prime seating throughout the entire race, and during down time, we had impressive guest appearances by V8 Supercars™ racers, Russell Ingall and David Reynolds, along with former world-renowned driver, Bob Bondurant.
What made the appearances so enjoyable (besides the amazing lunch buffet served throughout) were the question/answer and autograph sessions with some of their biggest fans and watching the excitement of the raffle winners, including the winner of the Hot Lap with Bob Bondurant!
Sunday brought even more excitement with the final races and even more V8 Supercars™ appearances by Jason Bright and Scott McLaughlin! The fans (especially the Aussies) were eager for these races, and showed it with chants, laughter and event props! Including numerous blow up kangaroos that made their way around the entire suite.
I, on the other hand, was more enthusiastic about our suite’s guest performance by Elise Testone. She was my favorite American Idol contestant EVER and, in my opinion, she is one of the most talented female musicians today – and our guests agreed. Not only did she get everyone pumped up for the big races, but she got herself pumped up in a race of her own in our VIP’s video game area before heading out!
That was just the afternoon in the hospitality suite, and the night had much more excitement to come. After the first wave of races and the final qualifying rounds came to an end, our VIP guests (and a few of staff members) hit the track for their Hot Laps with a professional driver, going over 90mph!
The atmosphere quickly became more focused when the final two races were ready to begin. This was the main event that so many of these fans had traveled across the world to see and waited all weekend to experience. The national anthems were performed, the cars, pit crews and sponsors gathered on the track, and before I knew it, they were off!
The emotions were high, the drinks were flowing, the Australian banners were up and the Kangaroos were in place. After an exhilarating (and loud) 2 hours or so, our top 3 finishers were known, and our VIP guests and I went straight onto the track to celebrate with them in the winners circle! That in itself is an unforgettable experience.
After that, we headed back to the hospitality shuttles, completely satisfied with how unbelievable the entire weekend went, while reminiscing about everyone’s favorite parts the entire way around the track.
And I’m happy to say that every single one of them, including myself, are already looking forward to going back for another COTA Experience next year!