Circuit of the Americas (COTA) opens for business (w/VIDEO)

With less than a month to go until the inaugural United States Grand Prix, the brand-new Austin circuit christened its freshly-painted surface with a First Lap Ceremony.

The event, held yesterday, was presented by Pirelli and featured celebrity drivers, VIP clients and selected members of the Lotus F1 Team.

As part of the event, Lotus’ third-driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio became the first man to experience the track at speed; taking in the 3.45 mile circuit at the wheel of the team’s 2010 Formula 1 World Championship challenger, the R30.

Circuit Of The Americas G1 999x619 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) opens for business (w/VIDEO)

Former F1 World Champion, Mario Andretti, also took to the new circuit in a JPS Lotus 79 – a car that he competed in with team mate Ronnie Peterson.

“That’s my designated signature corner,” said 72-year old Andretti, who had initially been scheduled to drive R30 before mechanical problems caused his run to be aborted. “I think that’s going to invite quite a bit of action there, a lot of overtaking for sure.”

26-year old D’Ambrosio was impressed with the transformation made to the 1,300 acre site, which received a fresh coat of paint just 2 weeks ago, commenting, “It’s been a great day today. There’s a real buzz about the Circuit of The Americas and it was fantastic to get out on track to demonstrate the R30. It’s a very enjoyable layout with a couple of good opportunities for overtaking, some long, fast, sweeping ‘S’ bends and a few really satisfying, high speed changes of direction similar to the ‘Becketts’ complex at Silverstone.”

In-car view from Mario Andretti’s first lap of the new Circuit of The Americas in the JPS Lotus 79.

“The first corner is also quite special and it will be interesting to see it when people are dicing for position in the race. It’s an enjoyable layout for a racing driver and also fantastic for the fans as the viewing areas are very well placed to catch all the action; of which there should be plenty! Austin itself is a superb city with a great atmosphere and I think it will really come alive for Formula 1 during the week of the Grand Prix which is something we all can enjoy. It’s really going to be something quite special.”

Also in attendance was actor and racing driver Patrick Dempsey, who took a few laps around the circuit in a GT2 Ferrari 458. “I’m having a blast, and learning the track at the same time. It’s great to be here.” He enjoyed it so much, that he ended up giving rides to some of the VIP guests.

Meanwhile Pirelli have announced the tyre choices available to F1 teams at next month’s US Grand Prix. “Austin will be raced on for the first time, and the simulation data established by Pirelli’s engineers over the summer has indicated that the HARD and MEDIUM tyres will be best-suited to the varying demands of this track.”

Circuit Of The Americas G9 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) opens for business (w/VIDEO)

“On a new circuit, a relatively conservative choice will make sure that all possibilities are covered. During a recent visit, Pirelli’s engineers established that significant energy loads will be put through the tyres. High temperatures are also expected.”

The US GP begins on November 16th, with many of the prime spots around the track already sold out. You can buy a ticket here.

Image credits: Lotus F1, Pirelli North America, COTA

Gallery