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Mario Andretti To Be Mr. Ambassador

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 10 2012

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Motorsports icon Mario Andretti, one of only two Americans to reign as Formula One World Driving Champion, has been appointed “official Circuit ambassador” for Circuit of The Americas, the sports and entertainment complex under construction in Austin, Texas.

Andretti will work with COTA officials to promote awareness of Formula 1™ in the months leading up to the United States Grand Prix, scheduled for Nov. 16-18. This weekend, Andretti has joined a group of COTA team members in Montreal to interact with teams, drivers and fans leading up to today’s Canadian Grand Prix.

A Thursday visit to Austin gave Andretti a preview of the track and facilities currently under construction. Paving is ongoing at Turns 1-9 and Turns 18-20. Significant progress also has been made on the pit building and main grandstand, as well as the 5,500-square foot media center and state-of-the-art medical center.

COTA will play host to the return of F1 to the United States for the first time in five years, when the FIA-sanctioned series competed on a road-course incorporating portions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Formula 1’s return to the United States is so exciting for racing fans, especially at a purpose-built facility,” Andretti said in a statement. “Circuit of The Americas has a strong team behind it that is working day-in and day-out to prepare for the first race. They have made significant progress in a short amount of time. The track design has really come together, and it’s clear that this will be a phenomenal venue for a variety of premium motorsports. I know I’ll be there this November to help the Circuit of The Americas team welcome back F1 in grand fashion.”

Andretti – selected as Driver of the Century in January 2000 – is the only driver to win NASCAR’s Daytona 500 (1967), the Indianapolis 500 (1969) and F1 World Driving Championship (1978). Andretti competed in 128 F1 races, registering 12 wins, 18 poles and the World Championship for Team Lotus. The late Phil Hill was crowned World Champion with Scuderia Ferrari in 1962.

With more than 100 major wins in virtually every racing series – including Formula 1™, IndyCar, NASCAR, World Sports Cars, Sprint Cars, dirt track and drag racing – Andretti is one of the most accomplished and reputable racing experts in the world. He was named Driver of the Year in three different decades (the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s) and Driver of the Quarter Century (in 1992).

A native of Italy, Andretti, 72, retired from active driving at the end of the 1994 Championship Auto Racing Teams season. He won the IndyCar National Championship four times (three under U.S. Auto Club sanction, one with CART). An accomplished businessman off track, Mario serves as spokesman, associate and friend to top executives around the world.

“Circuit of The Americas is honored to introduce Mario Andretti as our official ambassador to the motorsports world,” said Bruce Knox, COTA’s executive vice president. “Mr. Andretti is a racing icon and is globally recognized as one of the most successful drivers in the history of motorsports. Circuit of The Americas will benefit from Mr. Andretti’s valuable input and representation as we prepare for the inaugural Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.”

Circuit of The Americas will be a world-class destination for performance, education and business. It will be the first purpose-built grand prix facility in the United States designed for any and all classes of racing, from motor power to human power, and be home to the 2012 Formula 1 USGP and Australian V-8 Supercars.

COTA’s master plan features a variety of permanent structures designed for business, education, entertainment and race use. Its signature element will be a 3.4-mile circuit with capacity for 120,000 fans. Construction began early in 2011 on COTA, located 20 miles southeast of downtown Austin on a 970-acre site two miles from Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

COTA and the Austin Sports Commission are partnering to develop a regional force of volunteers for various events throughout the area. The joint venture will allow those interested in volunteering at events to become an ambassador for Austin, with the first volunteer opportunity being the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in November. A link to the volunteer sign-up page now is available at www.circuitoftheamericas.com and www.austintexas.org/sports-commission.

“A strong volunteer force is vital in operating a successful, large-scale event,” said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of The Americas. “We expect to recruit approximately 1,000 volunteers for the Formula 1™ event alone. There is also a need for a regional volunteer force from which all city-wide events can recruit experienced, motivated helpers. We look forward to working with the Sports Commission to build the first of its kind in Austin.”

Volunteer opportunities will include a variety of positions and time commitments to fit individual interests and backgrounds. Potential areas with a need for volunteers include customer service, way-finding, ushering, transportation and welcome centers at Austin Bergstrom International Airport and downtown.

Individuals will be asked to “opt-in” for different events on the website, with the first event being the Formula 1™ race. Nonprofits, organizations or other groups interested in volunteering together may register for group volunteer opportunities. In addition to the Formula 1 event, this registration system will be used to recruit volunteers for a variety of other events occurring at the new track, including the V8 Supercars series at COTA and several other international motorsports series to be identified in the coming months. Individuals also will be able to sign up for events recruited to the city by the Austin Sports Commission.

Circuit of The Americas also has begun working with Austin-area universities to recruit students for various volunteer positions. Volunteers will receive specialized training by experienced Circuit staff, branded clothing to wear during volunteer hours and an invitation to participate in special events leading up to Race Day.

Three-day reserved grandstand bleacher seats and general admission tickets will go on sale this morning for the inaugural Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. Tickets for the race weekend – set for Nov. 16-18 – will be available at 10 a.m. (EDT), at www.CircuitofTheAmericas.com/tickets.

Three-day general admission tickets are priced at $159 per person, and will allow fans to choose their views of the action from several grassy berms and spacious public areas surrounding the 375-acre state-of-the-art facility designed by Tilke GmbH, the famed German architectural company.

Three-day reserved grandstand bleacher seats range in price from $269 to $499 per person and offer guests views from vantage points around the 3.4-mile racetrack, including Turns 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 and 12.

Prices for three-day reserved grandstand bleacher seats depend upon location as follows: General Admission, $159; Grandstand _ Turn 11, $269; Grandstand _ Turns 2, 3, 4 and 5, $299; Grandstand _ Turn 12 (lower rows), $399 and Grandstand _ Turn 12 (upper rows), $499.

All three-day reserved grandstand bleacher seats and general admission tickets include round-trip shuttle bus transportation from three designated park-and-ride locations in the greater Austin area. Shuttle bus pick-up/drop-off locations include the corner of 15th Street and Trinity Street in downtown Austin, the Travis County Fair and Expo Center at 7311 Decker Lane, and at a location in southeast Travis County that will be announced this summer.

To select and purchase tickets, fans should visit www.CircuitofTheAmericas.com/tickets, www.ticketmaster.com (use the search terms “Circuit of The Americas” or “Formula 1 United States Grand Prix”), or dial the Ticketmaster hotline at 800.745.3000 to review available options.

Customers interested in premium seating options, such as Personal Seat Licenses with season tickets and on-site parking, can submit information through the “Tickets” section of COTA’s official website and will be contacted by a sales representative for more information. Circuit of The Americas sales representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (CDT,) at 512.301.6600.

Additional information about grand prix transportation and travel packages, facility hours of operation, special events and entertainment and items permitted inside Circuit of The Americas during the race weekend will be announced in the coming weeks.

Two-time/reigning F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel will get first crack at the 3.2-mile Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial street course during a visit to the Metro New York/New Jersey area on Monday.

Vettel’s visit is scheduled one day after today’s Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, where the German qualified his Red Bull/Renault on-pole Saturday. Vettel will participate in a media conference with race promoter Leo Hindery, Infiniti representatives, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and West New York Mayor Felix Roque.

Vettel also is scheduled to appear on “Late Night with David Letterman” on Monday to discuss F1’s foray into the USA’s No. 1 media market.

Formula One Grand Prix of America plans its inaugural race for June 2013 as part of a 10-year agreement with the sanctioning FIA. The course will be run on existing streets in Port Imperial, Weehawken and West New York, along the Hudson River and at the top of the Palisades, with the New York City skyline as the backdrop. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the race weekend. Fans will arrive through a combination of New Jersey Transit, PATH and New York Waterway ferries.

Formula One Grand Prix of America headquarters are shared between Port Imperial and Manhattan.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 10 2012
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