Texas financial chief says Austin F1 deal is done

Combs and Hellmund (far right) were part of the Austin delegation

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs – in effect the state’s chief financial officer – has headed off potential criticism of the US GP in Austin by insisting that the deal is already done.

Combs has committed the state to a $25m a year payment from the Texas Special Events Fund. That is designed to cover expenses related to major events, and is believed to in essence represent the annual fee paid to host the race. The state is not involved in the actual development of the circuit, but local media has suggested that not all taxpayers will be supportive.

“The legislation is already passed, it’s a done deal,” Combs told this blog. “I think they’re going to be very excited.”

Combs was at Silverstone last weekend with a group from Texas that included promoter Tavo Hellmund and other key figures in the project. It was her first visit to a Grand Prix, and from a base at Bernie Ecclestone’s motorhome the Austin delegation met a number of key F1 figures.

“It’s very, very exciting,” she said of the event. “It has lots of technology, which I found particularly interesting, and it’s a real crowd pleaser, a real show. We’re now more excited. With the incredible impact that this has on England, we hope to have a similar impact on the United States.”

She has no doubts about what a race can achieve: “It’s going to put Texas on the international and global map, it’s going to put Austin on the international and global map, and it will brand Texas as the home of cars.”

The race was also Hellmund’s first visit to a race since he became a promoter.

“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” he told me. “People are looking forward to coming to Austin, and it’s been great. I was going to try to go to Montreal, but had a scheduling conflict. I needed to bring some of my partners over and it just coincided that the Comptroller was going to make a visit to a Grand Prix as well just to see the size and the scope and everything, so the timing was perfect.

“There’s about 12 people here. Two or three of them are partners of mine. We’ve got some of our legal team, and a couple of our communications people. I needed for them to get to know the FOM system, see how things run are run at a Grand Prix.”

Hellmund insists that his plans are moving ahead: “We’re almost done with the design stuff. We’ve changed a few things based on the site, and the biggest thing is trying to finish the proper plan for the FIA Circuit Commission. I believe that’s in September. The Tilke people have been in Austin pretty much non stop and have met with our architects and our contractors. We’re hammer down.”

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Texas financial chief says Austin F1 deal is done

  1. Stovall

    Fascinating! Wonder if the Conservative Tea Party in Texas will kick up a fuss?

    • mia

      Many of Texans are very angry against the deal. I highly doubt that the US GP launches on time or ever happens in Austin.

      • BJ

        I wouldn’t say that is completely the case, most of the people that I have spoken to are pretty excited about getting a race in Austin.

  2. Wally

    Those many Texans might want to think about 100,000+ spectators spending $250+/person that weekend. I usually dropped $750-1,000 into the Indy economy when I went to F1 races.

  3. GQsm

    I think they can make an amazing go of it if they get the right people in and the budget sticks.
    The USA do some things very well and I think it could translate into great Grand Prix facilities. Will probably never go living in Europe but look forward to seeing and hearing it take shape as well as the first race. I do think if the deal is done it is done, no amount of moaning will stop it if the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted, only vanishing funds.

  4. kristin

    I’m a Texan, and I couldn’t be more excited. There are so many US based companies that advertise and contribute to the world of F1, that it is hard for me to believe that it has been so long since there has been a race in the US. This new GP will be great for the sport, the city, and the state.

  5. CARSON 44

    I’ve always thought that if Tony George had this kind of monetary support from the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana the race would still be at Indy. Bernie is used to dealing with governments that can make any deal they wish at any cost, none of it need make financial sense. Abu Dhabi may be the poster child for this type of thinking. So who can blame Bernie or who could help Tony. Here’s the answer.

    • Brad

      I live 60 miles from Indy and attended each F1 race, practice & qualifying. IF this actually happens, it might be good for 1 or 2 years before Bernie & the rest of the eurotrash hangers-on screw it all up. F1 has no clue how to approach the American marketplace, and from what I have seen it doesn’t care. The annual fee is Bernie’s only purpose. He will praise Austin’s organizers to high heaven for 2 years and then throw them under the bus for a larger payment from (insert any country here). If I were in charge of IndyCar, I would schedule a race at Texas Motor Speedway on the same day and make it free admission. BTW, I have been an F1 fan for 20 years, and it keeps getting harder to remain one.

  6. Ken

    I don’t know where the ‘many Texans’ are that are ‘very angry’ about the deal. I am 65 miles north of Austin and I haven’t heard one negative comment about it. I’m sure there are some naysayers, but most people around here really like the idea….

  7. Martin Collyer

    Adam, it seems strange to me that this story has not been run sooner. Similar to you, Autosport website reported the meetings with the Texas delegation four days after the end of the British Grand Prix. (I am assuming that the meetings/briefings with the Texas people took place over the race weekend rather than Wednesday or Thursday of this week.)

    After the Donington debacle this is clearly a story of great interest to UK fans so why the need to delay the story?

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