US GP promoter considering three Austin locations

New US GP promoter Tavo Hellmund says that he does not yet have a site on which to construct the circuit, but he is looking at three possible locations in Austin.

Hellmund also says no land has been purchased, and a cynic might assume that the price for possible locations may have gone up in the last 24 hours, unless he is further down the road than he is letting on.

With the inaugural race likely to take place in a little over 24 months’ time in June 2012, as part of a double header with Canada, it would seem that time is of the essence.

Speaking to Austin’s Statesman newspaper, Hellmund added that he had been talking to Bernie Ecclestone since 1999 – before the first race at Indy- and had begun serious discussions four years ago. He said that the bid process alone had cost $1m.

“I got 18,000 e-mails in three minutes,” he said of the announcement. “Austin is more of an F1 crowd than a NASCAR crowd. The geography, the tech money, the nightlife, the music. It all just fits with what Formula One is all about.”

Democtratic senator Kirk Watson told the paper: “The economic impact is said to be almost as big as a Super Bowl, and that’s every year.”

The state has a ‘Texas Major Events Trust Fund’ which is intended to reimburse cities for costs they face when hosting big sporting events. Intriguingly Watson was responsible for recently adding F1 to the list of eligible events in a recent bill.

The Statesman also summed up the local response: “The announcement stunned many in the Texas auto racing community and surprised and delighted some political leaders, but it left others wondering about significant details — including where a track would be built, who would build it, how much it would cost, who would pay for it and why would an Austin project succeed where others haven’t?”

Meanwhile the Austin Business Journal underlined the mystery attached to the project:  “City of Austin and Austin Chamber of Commerce officials were unfamiliar with race organizers’ plans and do not appear to have been deeply involved in the deal, according to city and chamber sources. Although Mayor Lee Leffingwell was cited in the news release on the Formula 1 website, a staffer said the mayor was not informed prior to the announcement.”

Eddie Gossage of Texas Motor Speedway has added a note of caution by saying that his facility cost $250m to construct back in 1996.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “US GP promoter considering three Austin locations

  1. Any news on how much FOM are charging them for the hosting race? I hope they got a seriously good deal to keep ticket prices nice and low.

  2. mt

    A BIG THANK YOU Mr. Cooper for posting this info from the people with “boots on the ground” in Austin, Tx. It may be Ecclestone’s “mo” to throw “stuff” against a wall and see what sticks, but it is increasingly wearing thin. Pronouncemets emanating from him re: ANY future GP’s ANY where should be filed with the “boy who cried wolf”.

    • Yep it is interesting that the Austin authorities know so little about it. Funny to see a video of the local newscast with the caption ‘Grad Prix’ and a picture of a 1990s Benetton flashed up behind the announcer!

      • BJ

        There has been even worse than that.. Yesterday I saw ESPN do a short teaser about the race with IRL footage.

  3. pgj

    Shouldn’t F1 be all about car racing? Otherwise we could end up with another useless race such as Monaco.

    An F1 race in the US is desirable, but this is beginning to stack up as another Bernie/FOM/CVC money spinner with racing coming a distant second best.

    • Marco

      My guess is that you didn’t watch the race 10 days ago, it was in monaco and it was car racing at its best.

  4. Charles

    Doesn’t Tony George still hold the rights to any event called the United States Grand Prix?

  5. Smells very Donington/US F1-esque, i.e. all on the promise of money without actually having the cash in place to do it, in which case it probably won’t happen

    Also could be just another of Bernie’s extreme bargaining ploys, using a dreamer’s plan to get what he really wants. There are several reasons why this seems rather dodgy – that they don’t own a site for the circuit with 2 years until they host the race is the main one

    • paxdog57

      Spot on, this sure does smell of a Bernie smokescreen (he must have been a carney in another life). In 2 years, there has to be land bought, a race track designed, built and sanctioned…… dream on Austin

      My bet is to place a little heat under Tony George and drive up the price of the deal…….

      Yes F1 can attribute its world sporting success in large measure to Bernie but I wonder if the Bernie’s days of largesse are over. Step aside Bernie and let a successor guide the future, the fans of F1 want exciting racing and in traditional F1 markets.

    • Black Knight

      Yes – good point – it dones have a Donington smell to it. No property purchased, no site selected at 24 months and counting. If SMI (Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte, ect.) were behind this – no worries. But to come from nowhere and get this done is a very big longshot.
      Good luck.

  6. moelmsch

    Full Throttle Productions are being used by Bernie to cut a better deal with the Hulman family which own and operate IMS. There is no possible way that an F-1 race can be held in Austin if the site has not yet been identified. The process for getting the entitlements and approval to build a race track will take at least 2 years after the site has been identified and put under contract. After that it will take another 30 months for preparation and approval of the construction drawings and then actual construction of the facilities. Therefore, the whole process will take at least four years but probably five. Full Throttle is clearly being used and manipulated by Bernie
    Ecclestone as has been his history with others. I wish this plan had the slightest chance of being realized but it will not happen in the time frame stated by the hype.

    • Eric the Red

      And what credentials do you have to support your assertions? Do you have personal insight into the motivations of one B. Eccelstone that no one else has? Are you privy to the process limitiations that the governments of Austin, the surrounding communities, and the state of Texas have that would support your position in regards to the 4 to 5 year timeline you mentioned? I would be very interested to know what qualifies you to be able to make such statements. Please let us know so that we may consider your opinions to be reasonably valid.

      • moelmsch

        I am in the real estate development business and I know how long things take. If the article is correct in stating the site has not been identified, then my estimates are reasonably correct. On the other hand, if this deal has been in the works for a couple of years and the site is already under contract, and preliminary plans have already been submitted to the governmental authorities who would review the plans or drawing and issue the approvals and permits, then 2012 could be a valid estimate for the track opening and the USGP being run there. Tavo Hellmund was interviewed by Dave Despain on Speed Channel Sunday afternoon and Tavo seemed to imply that the approval process may have already started so 2012 may work. I hope it all comes together so that I don’t have to keep going to Montreal, eventhough it is a grear venue, to see a Formula One race!

  7. Ward Merrell

    It will take more than 2 years to make this a reality.
    It’s a good thing Tavo started a couple of years ago.
    He had the plans completed last year. And for those, who question this, all I can say is, you don’t know Tavo.
    Austin is a great place. The 4th, 7th, and 8th largest cities, are located within 250 miles of Austin. And there are plenty of fans that will come from Mexico. Also less than 300 miles from the border.
    Texas is notjust, Nascar race fan country, it’s race fan country.
    I think I will spend my time, wishing this project well, as opposed to, looking for reasons for it to fail.

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