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A slice of sports car racing heaven — in Texas: Track side at Circuit of The Americas

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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This past weekend, 33,000 fans converged upon the Circuit of the Americas to watch three days filled with the most premier sports car racing in the world. 

The double-header culminated with a two-hour, 45-minute race run by the American Le Mans Series on Saturday and a six-hour World Endurance Championship race on Sunday. 

Multiple classes of cars — production-based GT cars and variations of Le Mans Prototypes, all duking it out for position simultaneously — is a key feature of sports car racing, which guarantees that there is always passing and excitement on almost any part of the circuit.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) is renowned for making the teams and drivers accessible to the fans. Minutes before the race begins, all fans are allowed onto the grid to see the cars and teams up close.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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TheDyson Racing Lola B12/60 appears ready to fly.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Inside the cockpit, a map of Circuit of the Americas is taped to the wheel. This is mostly for corner number reference, not for navigation!

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Audi R18 e-tron quattros were dominant throughout most of the weekend in WEC. The No. 2 car went on to win the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas event.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Tire technology is ultra competitive and secretive. Teams lease tires from manufacturers, who closely regulate their use and track them to keep them out of the hands of competitors. 

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Less than a year after its opening, Circuit of the Americas has become a fixture in the international racing world. 

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The factory Corvette team is always among the strongest in ALMS.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is one of the most popular cars in GT racing around the world.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Sticky, high-tech racing rubber and beautiful forged alloy rims are seemingly everywhere you look in the paddock during ALMS.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Porsche 911 is a fixture in sports car racing, and this event marked the North American debut of the next generation (991 based) Porsche 911 RSR. After a brief fire scare during a pit stop, it would go on to finish fifth in class in the WEC race.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The absurd and brilliant Nissan Deltawing coupe is a fan favorite.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The SRT Viper GTS-R returned to ALMS this year in the production-based GT class. I drove the production SRT Viper earlier this year and was eager to see how the racing version stood up the competition.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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In its transformation to racing car, the engineers actually had to restrict some of the Viper's 640 horsepower from the street car, due to ALMS regulations. This car makes between 480 and 490 hp from its V10 powerplant.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The steering wheel in the Viper GTS-R is lightweight and well-worn.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Dizzyingly complex suspension components sit on a workshop table inside the SRT team trailer. The team carries spares of almost everything and all the tools and manpower necessary to tear down a car and rebuild it.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Every car in the GT class is built to be as wide as possible within the rules. The engineers told us that if the Viper GTS-R were made back into a street car, it would be so wide that it would have to have DOT-mandated small lights across the roof, like trucks.

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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ALMS allows fans to get up close with the latest racing technology in a more relaxed setting. 

Photo by Kevin McCauley
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A long day at COTA gives way to a beautiful Austin sunset. American Le Mans and WEC delivered two different flavors of a legendary spectacle on a new world-class track here in Texas. See you next year?