SBD/Issue 177/Leagues & Governing Bodies

F1 Announces Plans To Hold U.S. Grand Prix In Austin From 2012-2021

Austin Would Become First U.S. City To
Host F1 Race Since Indianapolis In '07

F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone yesterday announced that Austin, Texas, will "host F1 races from 2012 through 2021 and become the first U.S. city to stage such races since Indianapolis in 2007," according to John Maher of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Ecclestone said that the Austin Grand Prix race, "for the first time in U.S. history, would have a track specifically built for Grand Prix racing." Racing experts said that "such a track could cost as much as" $250M. The announcement of the race "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?" Austin-based Full Throttle Productions Managing Partner Tavo Hellmund, whose company will partner with F1 for the race, said that the bidding process alone cost more than $1M, and that "land has not yet been purchased, but that three sites are being considered." Hellmund added that the track "would be at least three miles long," and Driveway Austin President Bill Dollahite estimated that it "would take 600-1,000 acres for the track and grandstands." Dollahite, "who built a track for his driving club," estimated the driving surface alone for a Grand Prix track would cost $100M and would be a "huge undertaking." Maher notes a "state tax-incentive program -- known as the Texas Major Events Trust Fund -- is intended to reimburse cities for the costs they bear by hosting profitable events, such as a Formula One race or the Super Bowl." Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell: "This will solidify our standing as an international city. ... Hundreds of millions of people also see the broadcast, and those who don't know about Austin will" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 5/26).

F1 ITCHING TO GET BACK TO U.S.: The AP's Jim Vertuno noted F1 "has been hot and cold on the desire to even hold a race" in the U.S. The U.S. Grand Prix was "dropped after an eight-year run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000-07 with mixed results," and "before its run in Indianapolis, Formula One had been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix on city street circuits." The IMS race was "run on a road course built inside the oval track." Ecclestone in March said that he "wanted a race" in N.Y., but Hellmund said that F1 officials "who visited Austin were impressed with the city and the plan to build a Grand Prix-specific course." Hellmund noted the Austin track and grandstand would be built "within 10 miles" of the Austin airport. F1 officials "have not yet set a date for the 2012 race" (AP, 5/25). In London, Tom Cary notes F1 manufacturers "have been vocal about the need to return" to the U.S. market. Hellmund said that the deal "had been years in the making." Hellmund: "This is a case of the right timing in the right place. As many Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the 'it' cities in the United States" (London TELEGRAPH, 5/26). In N.Y., Brad Spurgeon wrote, "What is more interesting is that Bernie Ecclestone is also announcing that there will be a 'world-class facility purpose-built' to host the event. With all the futuristic Hermann Tilke monolithic tracks cropping up around the world ... this must mean something special." Meanwhile, the project "clearly has the backing of the state government" (NYTIMES.com, 5/25). 

BELIEVE IT WHEN WE SEE IT: ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote a "lot of questions need to be answered before I believe the Texas capital is getting an F1 race in 2012." No one "seems to know if Tavo Hellmund ... has any money," and "we're talking real money here, hundreds of millions of dollars to make this happen." Ecclestone "acts like the Austin race is a done deal for 10 years," and "even Texas governor Rick Perry praised the plan as if everything was in place." But "no one has said where the financing is coming from and who is putting up the funding." Blount: "Who are the investors? It won't be the state of Texas, which like many other states these days is billions of dollars in debt" (ESPN.com, 5/25).

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