Veteran circuit designer Hermann Tilke will be responsible for the Austin F1 track, promoter Tavo Hellmund has confirmed to this writer. Hellmund also says the project is also much further along than has been assumed, and the track has already been drawn.
“This has been long in the works,” he told this blog. “Everything is in place.”
Although the former racer told local media yesterday that three possible venues were still under consideration, that suggestion was apparently a smokescreen.
While several alternatives were under consideration, one site was settled on some time ago, and the land – over 800 acres – has already been purchased. Not only that but initial permissions for amenities such as water and waste, which are usually time consuming affairs, have already been granted.
Although Hellmund has yet to divulge details of what he calls a “killer location”, he confirmed that the site is to the east of the city, a few miles from the airport. It is said to be in hilly countryside that has provided Tilke with a good starting point for a design.
The German has been asked to create a fast circuit with challenging corners that resemble those of classic established circuits such as Silverstone, Hockenheim and Spa. It will be over 3-miles in length.
Tilke first sent a representative of his company to Austin around two years ago, and has made personal many visits since. He is currently looking for office space in the city in which to base the project.
Hellmund is adamant that Austin is an ideal location: “Other than New York or LA, which already have 10m people, where are you going to find a place that within 150-mile radius you have three of the top 10 largest markets in the United States? That is the wonderful thing. Our position between Canada and the United States, North, South and Central America, is unbelievable.
“You take that into account, you take into account the draw that Austin is, it’s the state capital, it’s in the hill country, it’s got a huge, huge vibe and tag of being the coolest place.”
As reported previously, the race is set to benefit from the ‘Texas Major Events Trust Fund,’ which is intended to reimburse cities for costs they face when hosting big sporting events.
However, that relates only to specific events and does not have an impact on the cost of building the facility, which is apparently budgeted at $200m. The track build is being financed by private investors, and when completed the venue is likely to be named after either Texas or Austin.
One of the key elements that has helped to generate funding is that aside from F1, the circuit will be used to help develop alternative fuels.
Tavo has known Bernie Ecclestone since he was a teenager. His father was involved in promoting Indycar and TransAm races in Mexico City, and also helped to bring F1 back to the country in 1988. Hellmund Sr was also involved in the 1986 soccer World Cup and in organising music events.
While the Austin project was greeted with some scepticism, Hellmund’s enthusiasm for it is infectious and he certainly makes a credible case for it. It will be fascinating to see what happens next.