Here's Why You Maybe Shouldn't Camp at the Circuit of the Americas

COTA is a great track to see racing. For tent camping? Not so much.

Kevin McCauley

Everyone asked me why I, an avid non-camper, wanted to camp at the racetrack during FIA WEC Lone Star Le Mans. Heat, humidity, and mosquitos were cited as major issues. They also asked the same question that I had been unable to find an answer to: Is camping even any good at Circuit of the Americas?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

People have been camping at races since the beginning of the sport, probably, but it only first appealed to me when I was visiting Road America last summer. There, the campground area is tucked right inside the Carousel (turns 8-10), in the middle of the track. There are tents set up next to sports cars as far as the eye could see, with a big permanent building with showers and bathrooms right in the center. It looked like a lot of fun: why leave the track to sleep in some hotel when you’ve got a cooler full of beers and you can wake up to the sound of motor racing?

Kevin McCauley

I don’t live near Road America, but I do live within driving distance to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX. Sleeping at the circuit seemed like a different way to experience the weekend, and a fitting sendoff to a race that felt like the end of on era—the last WEC race at COTA, and the last opportunity to watch the Porsche 919 Hybrids compete in America before Porsche withdraws from LMP1 at the end of the season.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I looked for reviews about the experience of camping at Circuit of the Americas, but first-hand accounts online were non-existent, and no one I knew had tried it. Who cares—I was already committed to this dumb idea, and it was too late to turn back. I bought the $200 Dry Camping weekend pass (race admission is not included), threw my sleeping bag in the car, and brought along my friend Will Pierce, who conveniently already owns all the rest of the camping gear we’d need.

Kevin McCauley

We arrived Friday, parked in the Lot H camping area, and surveyed our surroundings. The GEICO RV & CAMPING section of COTA’s website touted that your $200 got you such benefits as “access to the campground” and “access to restrooms.” The restrooms are porta-pottys. The big building in front of us, yes, that one, with the showers and plumbing and restrooms — that’s off limits. It’s separated by two fences, and is exclusively for use by the Premium RV section, which runs at $1000 for a weekend pass. Hang on, don’t RVs all have their own bathrooms and showers? Surely Premium RVs do. Nevermind all that, we were here to watch some racing.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Kevin McCauley

Since the track itself is not visible from the Lot H camping area, we headed out and walked the 6/10ths of a mile to the nearest track entrance at the Grand Plaza. Inside the gates, the experience is familiar and enjoyable. The event had a pretty solid race schedule for the weekend, despite the absence of IMSA this year. World Series Formula V8 3.5, F4, and Ferrari Challenge filled the void and brought some variety to the action. Fans have open access to the paddock areas, which is a huge treat if you’re used to Formula 1. There’s always something to see, even if nothing's happening on track.

I woke up at 5:30AM on Saturday, a bit dehydrated and running through the same thoughts over and over in my head:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
  • Ah yes, it’s still humid
  • The porta-pottys in the camp area aren’t even designated for campers — they're just the ones that would be there anyway, right by the road
  • I never thought of myself as having some compulsion that I had to wash my hands every 20 minutes, but what this weekend has taught me is that …maybe I do?

    I sat around the makeshift campsite for a bit, and by 8AM, the Formula 4 race had started. Rolling out of bed next to your car, sipping on a fresh cup of coffee, and listening to the sounds of motor racing: that’s the experience I was after. It was great. There’s something nice about already being at your destination and being in no hurry to start the day. Was that worth the price?

    Kevin McCauley
    Kevin McCauley
    Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
    Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

    If you’re considering tent camping at Circuit of the Americas, maybe don’t. For your $200, you can get a pretty good hotel in Austin. For just $30, you can buy a regular weekend parking pass and just sleep in your car. It’s basically the same thing as the Lot H camping experience, except you’re closer to the track entrance.

    Kevin McCauley
    Kevin McCauley
    Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
    Kevin McCauley
    Kevin McCauley
    Kevin McCauley
    Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
    More From Motorsports