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.