Preparations for the US GP in Austin took a step forward this week when FIA Senate President Nick Craw visited the site and met with promoters and officials. Also President of ACCUS, Craw is a close associate of Jean Todt, and his stamp of approval is a major boost for the project.
“It will be great,” said Craw. “This has some of the most interesting, exciting and different features, drawn from other successful venues around the world. It is a very strong team they’ve assembled here. I think it’s a very good plan and a very solid business model. They’ve set the bar pretty high.”
Accompanied by Tim Mayer, Craw also met with various public officials, including Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell and Susan Combs, the Texan Comptroller who has authorised state backing of the event, albeit not the construction of the venue.
Promoter Tavo Hellmund commented in a statement: “We were pleased to have Mr Craw and Tim Mayer, alternate FIA delegate, visit the facility site and meet the incredible team assembled to build and operate what we believe will be one of the premiere racetracks on the circuit and a world-class venue. Our team is committed to building more than a race track, we are thinking far beyond the expected and are developing an environment that will provide an entertainment experience for both participants and spectators alike.”
Meanwhile in the light of the dramas in Korea there is talk of the FIA enforcing the 90-day inspection rule. With the first race expected to run in June 2012, in conjunction with the Canadian GP, that would give Austin barely 15 months to finish the project from the planned start of construction in December.
Craw said: “That probably protects everybody’s interest a little better than running right up against the event,” but apparently he added that he would lobby against it if the Austin organisers so desired.
Hellmund commented: “While we would love to have the luxury of having a completed track 90 days in advance of the event date – the schedule, much like the construction schedule for the last five grand prix track developments and races added to the schedule, will potentially not afford us this opportunity. All of these events have been successful in their own right and it wouldn’t make sense to invoke a 90-day mandate now, that would affect only one track in the world – ours.”
However the 90-day rule would also presumably put pressure on India, where the first race is scheduled for October 30 next year.