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Tilke has yet to visit Austin
55 - year-old Hermann Tilke is the world's leading circuit designer — a real-life Lord of the Rings. His privately held company, founded as a one-person firm, now has about 350 architects and engineers and offices all over the world.

Tilke GmbH has had a hand designing and/or building 11 of the 20 circuits in the current F1 race calendar. The planned Austin track will be its first such project in the United States.

The firm has specialists in a variety of construction fields, not only in architecture and civil engineering, but also electrical engineering, building equipment and structural analysis. Many of them have worked for more than a decade for the company.

"Hardly any other company worldwide is able to offer the whole package," said Tavo Hellmund, the promoter of the Austin F1 event and the head of Full Throttle Productions. "They are expensive, but they are simply the best."

Assuming that the Austin F1 organizers can get permits in time, crews will start grading the site, 900 acres in eastern Travis County, in December.

The firm faces a tight deadline to have the track ready in time for an inaugural 2012 race.

Tilke isn't worried.

"We are used to working under time pressure. That doesn't threaten us," he said in a telephone interview from Germany with the American-Statesman.

The $200 million track complex is likely to be one of the biggest construction projects in the region, involving as many as 2,000 workers at various stages.

Full Throttle Productions estimates another 1,200 temporary workers would be hired for F1 race weekends, according to documents presented to the city and obtained by the Statesman under the Texas Public Information Act.

Overseeing the Austin project is Christian Epp, a 36-year-old industrial engineer and former consultant of global strategy group A.T. Kearney.

Based in Canc£n, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Epp oversees Tilke projects in Latin and South America.

Epp is a wanderer between cultures. He grew up in Peru, Mexico, Germany and Argentina, is fluent in English, Spanish and German, and studied at the University of California at Berkeley, among other schools.

Epp has been working behind the scenes for about three years on the Austin project as a consultant to Hellmund. The company plans to open a downtown office as work on the Austin project gets under way.

Epp sees the Austin track as a chance for Tilke to get a foothold in the U.S.

"The Austin track is drawing a lot of attention, especially in the United States," Epp said. "For us, it is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate our high German quality standards. That will help us to get additional contracts from the U.S. market."

Although Tilke has not been to Austin, he is excited about the Austin circuit, especially because of the hilly land. The 3.4-mile track has 20 turns and a maximum elevation change of 133 feet, meaning the course will include dips and crests.

"The third dimension comes into the game. This is going to be very exciting for the drivers and for the fans," he said.

A number of people outside of Tilke provided input on the design of the Austin track, said Tilke, whom people describe as humble and quiet.

" F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, Hellmund and the motorcycle racing legend Kevin Schwantz came up with a lot of suggestions as well. We put the best ideas together," Tilke said. See full article at Austin Statesman

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