Big Time

We tackle the Circuit of the Americas in an F12 Berlinetta.

February 20, 2014
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Despite its wide-open spaces, America isn’t particularly friendly to the modern automobile. The problem? Today’s cars are simply too fast for U.S. roads. Even the most mundane four-cylinder is easily capable of topping the highest posted speed limit found on American soil—which, as of this writing, is 85 mph along sections of Texas State Highway 130.

This begs a question: If a base Honda Civic can top this 85-mph limit by a comfortable (and governed) 35 mph, what hope is there for those who want to properly exercise their sports cars or, even worse, full-on exotics? Answer: Not much—unless you happen to take the aforementioned Texas State Highway 130 and head south from Austin to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA).

COTA is one of the newest tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. This newness is important to this story, in that there’s a scale to this latest breed of Grand Prix venue that a larger-than-life automobile such as, say, the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta you see here, demands.

Before advancing too much further, however, let’s look at the facts and figures, and see how the F12 measures up to the track and vice-versa.

FIRST, THE TRACK: Put simply, it’s massive, a grandiose stage upon which to play with the most powerful machinery in the world. The complete Grand Prix circuit measures 3.4 miles in length and comprises 20 different corners. The tarmac is incredibly smooth throughout, subtly off-camber in places and of substantial grip from start to finish; even the 30° temperature swing I experienced when I attended the Ferrari Driving Experience there during the first week of December had little effect on how well the cars stuck to the track.

COTA takes its inspiration from other Grand Prix circuits, including England’s Silverstone and Turkey’s Istanbul Park, and also has a final turn that is more than a little reminiscent of the last bend at California’s Laguna Seca. The consensus is that the track challenges drivers, and while it may be lacking in overall flow there are still interesting features here and there, particularly the two gloriously long straights tailor-made for mega-horsepower machines.

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