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Old 07-28-2012, 09:56 AM   #602
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RV spots for F1 race weekend going for top dollarddoolittle@statesman.com07/27/2012 9:30 PM

By Dave Doolittle

Monaco has its yachts. Circuit of the Americas will have a small sea of RVs.

At the racetrack under construction southeast of Austin, track-side RV parking spots will be among the most prized places from which to watch the Formula One race planned for November.

The spots 78 along the back straightaway will offer people a familiar place to stay throughout the race weekend without the worry of getting stuck in post-race traffic, which organizers have estimated will take race-goers two to three hours to clear.

And like the Monaco harbor, where multimillion-dollar yachts are anchored at track-side berths that can cost $100,000 and more during races, the RV spots at Circuit of the Americas won't come cheap: $15,000 a year, with two- to three-year terms.

"There's been a huge amount of interest since the inception of the project," circuit spokeswoman Ali Putnam said of RV parking. "The demand is there. It's something people are looking forward to watching the race from that perspective so that's something we wanted to offer."

Circuit organizers have begun contacting people on a waiting list who have expressed interest in RV parking, Putnam said.

Camping in RVs and tents at racetracks is a time-honored tradition. Many U.S. racetracks offer RV camping within the venue, including spaces along the track.

In Europe, thousands of fans camp in tents and RVs near circuits that host F1 races, such as Monza in Italy and Silverstone in England.

"It's a great way to experience 100 percent of an event. You really feel like you're in the middle of the action," said Andrew Booth, a spokesman for Florida's Daytona International Speedway, which hosts NASCAR and other races. "Usually, the one constant thing is it's always festive, almost like you're tailgating during the entire race."

Daytona is one of 13 American racetracks owned or operated by International Speedway Corp. The company also runs Watkins Glen International, a road course in New York that hosted F1 races from 1961 to 1980, and Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, a mecca for RV-driving NASCAR fans.

At Circuit of the Americas, $15,000 buys a secured RV spot for up to four races a year and eight tickets to each race, which will allow access to the RV spots, general admission and common areas, Putnam said.

The spots will have water and power hookups, and people will have access to washrooms, restrooms and laundry facilities, Putnam said. The price also guarantees priority status to buy tickets to concerts and other events, she said.

Don Goodson, general manager at Buda RV dealer Camper Clinic II, said he expects the spaces to be filled with high-end RVs and campers pulled behind pickups, many of which are longer than 40 feet. Prices start at about $90,000 but can exceed $250,000, he said.

"These are comparable to a $1.5 million home because of the interior components wood cabinets, fancy paint jobs, humongous storage space underneath," Goodson said. He said the high-end models have appliances that run on electricity instead of propane.

Austin circuit officials are "flexible when it comes to future plans for (more) RV parking and camping," Putnam said.

RV parks near the circuit said they've seen high demand for the inaugural race, scheduled for Nov. 16 to 18. M.J. Ralph, the manager at Oak Forest RV Park off Decker Lane in eastern Travis County, set aside 15 spaces for race week.

"We gave them all the sites we could possibly give," Ralph said, who added that her park stays "99.9 percent full."

The park, which is near the Travis County Exposition Center, charges slightly higher rates for big events, including the Republic of Texas Biker Rally and Rodeo Austin. For Formula One, the rate is $125 a night. Normally, without discounts, a spot costs $44 a night for two people, she said.

"Every event that comes up, we always try to make room for those events, because it's good for Austin," Ralph said. "But we still get calls (for F1), and I just transfer them to where I know they might have room."

Other parks have not begun taking F1 reservations.

Midtown RV Park, near Airport Boulevard and Texas 71, will start taking reservations Nov. 1, manager Patty Smith said.

"I don't know how many spaces I'll have available," Smith said. "We have a lot of demand for those dates, probably over 50 calls or more since they announced tickets for sale."

Contact Dave Doolittle at 445-3671; Twitter @statesmanf1

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