I'll try not to wax poetic about the race experience, because what I have to say can be said concisely, so I'll sum it up with a subdued but impressed "wow".

On-Site Reflections on the 2013 UGSPS

Last year's race was an interesting case because, like every new track-build in modern F1, it always comes down to the wire. There wasn't a lot of finish out as far as non-essential facilities went, the parking/shuttle system worked but took a while, and the food and beverage and general amenities situation just wasn't particularly polished.

Fast-forward to this year, and almost all of those concerns were alleviated.

I'll start with the parking/shuttles, because they hit a home run this year. Cut the number of buses in half, but moved the remote parking locations way closer to the track. Result? Easy ingress/egress to the parking lots (only $20 for the weekend, no less), a short 5-10 minute bus ride to the track, and most importantly, it only took my crew of 3 about 30 minutes to get back to our car after the end of the race; compared to last year's hour and a half long journey, which seemed reasonable at the time given the number of people leaving all at once, but they just did a superb job this year.

Food: more local trucks (seriously, why last year they felt the need to bring in trucks from Kansas and Oklahoma when the race is held in the food-truck capital of the world is beyond me), no one ran out of food, lines weren't too ridiculous. Still think they could be doing so much more with the food truck situation with the quality that's in Austin, but it's not bad. I really just wish they would bring some real barbecue out to the tracks and stop feeding these Euros and Latin Americans the mediocre crap that they're masquerading as barbecue.

Fan-experience area: seemed like there was a lot more to do this year, although I never really ventured over there much as there was racing to be watched

Support races: no GT3 cup was a downer, and the Ferrari Challenge race on Saturday was a real snoozer, but the Sunday race was a great bloodbath (figuratively). Formula Vintage was an awesome eargasm, even if it involved little-to-no Formula 1 machinery (mostly F2, Formula Atlantic, and other assorted formulae). A little more track action would have been nice for Saturday, though.

Now for the only real critique, and this isn't COTA's fault, but the absence of FanVision was a real downer. Honestly, it sucks to do an F1 race without FanVision. Being able to keep up with the race on radio/audio feeds/video in your hand is so much better than listening to COTA's awful PA announcers and trying to find a good spot to watch the race from that also has a good view of a jumbotron screen. FOM needs to figure shit out and get FanVision back for next year, it's nearly indispensable and absolutely worth every dollar.

In short, while the racing wasn't quite as good this year, the circus going on around it was so much better and made for a great experience. That's just my take, but I've been pretty critical of COTA management in the past, and while this year's race doesn't address a lot of my complaints, they're at least showing a capacity for making improvements.

Also, anyone bitching about the ticket situation really needs to get over that shit at this point, as the track seemed to have everyone taken care of that didn't get their tickets in the mail on time.