With one race in the books, the SBMRL stays in the United States but heads south to Austin, Texas to run Circuit of the Americas. This will be the fourth time in as many seasons that the league competes on this particular track.
Circuit of the Americas has a little bit of everything, with rhythm sections, a sharp hairpin followed by a long straight, and some technical driving through the final sector. The starting straight isn’t particularly long and leads into a blind lefthander for turn 1.
Turns 3 and 4 keep everyone close and the field will likely stay together through the first sector. The exit of Turn 4 is key to a fast lap as it sets up Turn 5 and the track’s long back straight. In the past, this straight and the approach to Turn 6 have been key overtaking zones.
This is also, of cours, a prime opportunity for drivers to overcook things. In fact, Jaap’s retirement from last year’s race was largely the result of an overaggressive attempt to catch up that ultimately cost him.
After a first sector that seems relatively straightforward, the second sector feels like the highlight of the lap. The high risks involved leave the third sector as a bit of an afterthought. Sure, it looks as simple as the first one, but the reality is that this section of the track has caused more problems than anyone seems to remember. There’s nothing flashy about it. Any overtaking that occurs here feels more like one driver’s failure rather than the other’s skill, but that doesn’t mean it won’t play a key role in the race.
As this is the second race of the year, the starting grid for Austin is the reverse order of finish at Elkhart Lake.
- The Stig (SB)
- Whiplash (SR)
- Sheila Dinkum (RM)
- Jaap Snellrijder (RM)
- Delilah Whipplefilter (FR)
- Launch Bornado (FR)
- Bubba McQueen (SR)
- Rask Sjofar (SB)
As is league policy, pit selection will be in order of team standings, with ties broken by reverse order of average starting position. That leaves the following:
- Scandinavian Blitz
- Force Ravenswood
- Sprite Racing
- Regency Motors
Austin will be Bubba McQueen’s home race.
Jaap and Launch have both previously won in Austin, while Sheila and Whiplash finished on the podium last year. Pole-sitter The Stig has fared poorly in his three attempts to handle COTA, finishing no higher than 6th place. However, all three previous winners have started on the front row, with two of those being on pole. Mater is the only driver to have multiple podiums.
The previous three races have seen 5 cars fail to finish. Ironically, it was the 2016 race with 10 cars on the grid, the largest of the three, that saw all cars make it to the checkered flag. Last year, Jaap and Bubba both retired early.