SBD/November 16, 2012/Events and Attractions

Austin F1 Race's Short- And Long-Term Success Uncertain; Track Gets Rave Reviews

Race promoters expect between 110,000 and 120,000 spectators this weekend
The Circuit of the Americas hosts its first F1 race on Sunday and the "short- and long-term success of the event is anything but a given," according to John Maher of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. What will "be the measures for success here?" One indicator could come "as quickly as 10 seconds into the Sunday race, as cars scream up to the Circuit of the Americas’ signature first turn, testing whether the 3.4-mile course will be a classic or just another pretty venue." Another, "more important measure will be whether the track can become an economic engine for this undeveloped part of Travis County." That could "take 10 years to sort out." At stake is the "international portion of Austin’s reputation. How will it handle this type of event?" COTA President Steve Sexton said that there are "five main areas he’ll look at to determine the event’s success: ticket sales; fan feedback; team and Formula One feedback; media reaction and the economic impact for the region." Sexton said that ticket sales for the event "will be very close to 120,000" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's A.J. Baime noted when the "checkered flag waves Sunday, the future of F1 in this country should become clearer." Race promoters are "expecting between 110,000 and 120,000 spectators Sunday, the climax of three days of racing and events, including a music festival headlined by Aerosmith." Track officials said that "tickets for the race are nearly sold out." COTA has a "contract to host F1 through 2021" but the "concern is whether these events will pay for themselves -- whether F1 once again will fail to resonate here despite its wild popularity overseas." Another "drawback: no American drivers" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/15).

WEEKEND WITH BERNIE: F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said, "I think the circuit itself is absolutely fantastic. Everything they've done is unbelievable, everything we asked for they did. I think everything is fantastic. Everybody seems happy." He added, "I think America can probably last without F1, and I suppose F1 can probably last without America. But it's good to be here" (SPEEDTV.com, 11/15). The AMERICAN-STATESMAN's Maher in a separate piece notes Ecclestone on Thursday "toured the Circuit of the Americas facility, met people, asked questions and gave his stamp of approval to both the facility and those who made it happen." Ecclestone said, "They should all be really proud, because I am" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/16). Speed TV commentator David Hobbs said, "They've done an absolutely magnificent job" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/16). In London, Tom Dart writes Austin "is a curious choice for a sport that many Americans consider obscure and alien, if they even have an opinion on the subject." But Austin has "long been a counterintuitive kind of place, instinctively welcoming the unconventional" (LONDON TIMES, 11/16).

BEATING THE ODDS: The AMERICAN-STATESMAN's Maher in a separate piece wrote under the header, "Against All Odds, F1 Track Has Been Built, Ready To Host Race." For almost two years, the "project has bumped and lurched through doubts and delays." Even last week, race workers were "still scrambling around the massive site to complete a critical access road and finish fan amenities." But the "track has been built, and both the design and workmanship have been drawing raves" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/11). REUTERS' Steve Keating writes the race will provide a "spectacular stage for what could be a dramatic finish to the season and the start of a new era for the glamour series in a market it is determined to conquer." After getting a "first look at the circuit the two words most commonly used to describe the twisting track were, 'challenging' and 'interesting'" (REUTERS, 11/16).

BITTERSWEET WEEKEND: The AMERICAN-STATESMAN's Maher in a separate piece notes Former COTA Managing Partner Tavo Hellmund, who "first envisioned F1 racing in Austin plans to be at the circuit this weekend." When Austin’s first F1 race has "a winner and a conclusion, the clock will strike midnight for Hellmund." His "connection to the United States Grand Prix and the track, however limited that tie is now, will be completely severed." Hellmund said that he is "already working on another project, bringing Formula One back to Mexico." Hellmund said that he is "working with CIE, the massive Mexican entertainment company, which has a lease to a track" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/16).

ALL EYES ON ME? REUTERS' Keating in a separate piece wrote while Sunday's race "could be the pinnacle of the F1 season, American motor sports fans do not view the U.S. Grand Prix with as much anticipation." NASCAR "is king and it is likely more eyeballs and television remotes will be focused on Homestead, Florida where the Chase championship will also be decided on Sunday" (REUTERS, 11/14).
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