The Internet has changed the way drivers approach new tracks such as the Circuit of The Americas, host of the March 2 GRAND-AM of the Americas presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL.
The Internet, YouTube in particular, has changed the way drivers approach new tracks such as the Circuit of The Americas, host of the March 2 GRAND-AM of the Americas presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL.
In pre-digital times, competitors pored over course maps, still photos and – when fortunate – walked the course checking out elevations and potential racing lines.
No longer. The Internet is loaded with video shot from inside cockpits and from circuit-side cameras giving GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge teams the opportunity to map strategy and select gear and suspension setups in advance of the race weekend.
A number of teams also have tested at the 3.40-mile Formula 1-designed layout.
"When you approach a new race track, it's important to get as many reps as possible around the track," said Team Sahlen's Will Nonnamaker sharing the thoughts of No. 42 BMW/Riley lead driver Dane Cameron. "One way is to drive the track via video game/simulator. The only problem with this can be not having geographical references and seeing the precise cambers of the turns.
"For this, we watch lots of YouTube video of in-car footage. For the Circuit of The Americas, I have enjoyed watching Bill Auberlen's video while driving the Turner Motorsport BMW."
Eliseo Salazar, who'll share the No. 19 Muehlner Motorsports Porsche GT3 with fellow Chilean Eduardo Costabal, likewise has spent time in front of the computer screen. Salazar has seen Circuit of The Americas in person as an FIA driver steward at last fall's Formula 1 event.
"There will be limited practice time so it will be critical to learn the track from videos," he said.
Ian James, driver of the No. 158 Dempsey Racing Mustang Boss 302R he shares with Roger Miller in Continental Tire Challenge GS class, agreed the track is unique as a whole but not on a corner-by-corner basis.
"Corners aren't unique. If you've been racing awhile, you get the elements of every corner," said James, who estimates he's competed on 40 different tracks in North America, Europe and Asia. "You end up putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle.
"The new F-1 spec tracks are typically a lot safer [than older circuits] with wider run-off areas. That means the driver can push the limits right off."
TGM's David Murry has tested at the track, used the simulator and has watched hours of YouTube videos. What Murry, co-driver with team owner Ted Giovanis of the ST class No. 64 BMW 328i, looks for is when the driver is on the gas, the brakes and various reference points.
"Car set up is easy because Circuit of The Americas is so smooth," said Murry. "You don't have to worry about bumps."
Murry said video is helpful but it's no substitute for having the opportunity to participate in pre-race practices.
"Teams that tested will be quick out of the box," he predicted. "They can work on the car rather than learn the track."
The inaugural Rolex Series race in Austin can be seen on SPEED at 5:30 p.m. ET March 2. The Continental Tire Challenge Series event will be broadcast by SPEED at 4 p.m. ET on March 9.