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F1 attendees begin journey back home

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After the drivers crossed the checkered flag Sunday , fans headed to the airport in mass Monday.  However, the work is far from over for those who operated the Circuit of the Americas.

Officials with the Circuit of the Americas say the attendance for the 3 day race weekend was a record breaker for F1. The number of fans: 65,000 on Friday, 80,000 on Saturday, and 117,000 Sunday.  According to COTA officials, those numbers exceeded the number for the British Grand Prix, which had a top day of 90,000. While the crowds moved from the stands, to the airport, work is already underway to get them back.

The lines started forming early at ABIA. Airline ticket counters clogged up which kicked some departing F1 fans briefly to the curb. It was irritating but certainly not a deal breaker for most of these travelers.

A team of volunteers was on hand to help move the crowds. Getting through security typically slows down travelers, but extra personnel was brought in and an extra screening area was built to speed up the process.

"It's running really smooth our longest wait this morning was just under 40 minutes, the lines are long but they do move," said ABIA spokesperson Jim Halbrook.

Once through the gates charter jumbo jets and extra commercial flights carried the load.

It is estimated a little more than 21,800 people will fly out of ABIA by the end of the Monday. For a comparison consider ACL's one day departure number of 18,000 people.

More will still fly in and out on turkey day.  That estimate is 36,000 people.  Busloads of fans still kept things busy at the airport with most taking it all in stride.

"How difficult has it been this morning? Very easy very easy, everything was nice," said Ricardo Medina who was heading home to Mexico City.

Airport officials will meet next week to review how their plans worked.

"At the downtown office of the COTA, track managers are assessing what worked and what didn't work as well as to start planning for the next race.

The number crunching started Sunday afternoon shortly after race fans left the track.

"From the ticket sales aspect, home run," said COTA President Steve Sexton.

Over all, Sexton is pleased with how employees and vendors perform, but says a top to bottom review is underway

"That will take a couple of weeks to get it all collected, feedback, and so by mid-December we will have a good evaluation of what we saw and what we think we need to work and improve upon."

The to do list from departing race fans is not very long.  Better shuttle service inside the complex and more vendors on site were among the top concerns.

"Probably more permanent concession stands and permanent restrooms instead of port-o-potties, was one thing they need to work on," said Leilani Rios a fan from California.

The key to getting fans to book return trips may be what changes are done for the next race.  The Grand Am rumbles into Elroy in March.

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