Upcoming racetrack might start new trend

David Leffler

As construction continues on the new 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas racetrack being built outside of Austin, promoters are still working to inform Austinites of the sport.

David Platt, a senior instructor at the Red McCombs School of Business, hosted an on-campus lecture to provide students a chance to learn about the growing Formula 1 racing industry. Platt said because F1 teams serve more as agencies, there are many different marketing models within the sport. From a business standpoint, he said, this leaves room for more flexibility. Platt said the lecture helped UT students to get acquainted with F1 “before the rubber hits the road.”

Matt Jones of the AT&T Williams Formula One racing team spoke on campus Jan. 19 on the topic of “Glamour and Grit: The Marketing of a Formula One Racing Team.”

Platt said Jones addressed a number of issues including the sport’s appeal and the marketing techniques being used to promote it. Jones and Williams Formula One are working to educate people about the sport, Platt said. Once a comfort level with F1 is reached, people will want to watch it and businesses will be more likely to invest in it. Jones hopes once Austin businesses become more familiar with the sport, they’ll jump onboard, Platt said.

Art history sophomore Francesca Dolnier, said she races cars herself and is a big fan of F1 and believes more people will follow it once it comes to Austin.

“I think because a lot of people in Texas are sports fans, they could become F1 fans. Racing is a cool thing so I think kids will follow it and go to races,” she said.

Dolnier said she hopes to attend the first race held in Austin, which will run on Nov. 18 at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.

The F1 fan base in Austin is small but rapidly growing. One of the local voices of F1 and its upcoming arrival in Austin is Kerri Olsen, the co-founder of TheAustinGrandPrix.com. Olsen, along with her brother (and UT alumnus) Kevin, founded the website in May of 2010. Although it began as a blog, The Austin Grand Prix soon evolved into the leading source for news regarding F1’s move to Austin. Olsen admits that initially, she knew little about the sport.

“My brother was actually the big F1 fan, he’s been watching it since the mid-’90s,” she said. “Austin’s such a forward-thinking city. People here look to the future and are very open to new ideas. Because of that, I think there is a lot of potential for F1 to become popular here.”

Just a few months after creating the site, Olsen said she began receiving emails from people all over the globe.

“People are really excited about the race in November,” Olsen said. “There’s a buzz throughout the racing community about coming to Austin.”

Olsen said she believes the race could bring more than 300,000 people into Austin, providing an atmosphere and revenue comparable to that of South By Southwest. Olsen aims to inform the Austin community of the sport’s entertainment value. She said once F1’s season resumes in March, the The Austin Grand Prix will host a number of race-viewing parties.