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Austin F1 organizers make good on promise to break ground in late 2010
Benito Hinojosa of Austin Geologic drills for a soil sample at the planned F1 racetrack Thursday. Heavy-duty work on the 970-acre tract southeast of Austin began this week, nearly seven months after plans for the Formula One track were announced.
Not long after the stunning announcement in May that Austin had landed a Formula One race, organizers said they hoped to begin moving dirt by December in order to complete construction in time for the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix race in 2012. Then months slipped by without much happening on the site.

Until this week, that is, when groundbreaking (video) finally got under way on the 970-acre tract southeast of Austin.

The construction activity cannot clearly be seen from FM 812 or the other adjacent roads: The future racetrack is too far away and hidden by hilly terrain and vegetation.

But inside the property, on a rise near what is slated to be Turn 11, the first wave of heavy machinery was at work Thursday.

The small fleet from Ranger Excavating included a Cat 966H front-wheel loader, which weighs more than 50,000 pounds, several large trucks and a trencher being used to help build the silt fences that are used for sediment control. A drilling machine was busy taking core samples of the black earth.

The 3.4-mile race circuit has already been staked out by vegetation shredders. The unofficial lap record for a car to negotiate the bumpy terrain is reportedly 31 minutes.

Construction should be more visible to passing motorists in the coming weeks. It appears that there will be two compounds on the property for workers and machinery, with one being just off FM 812.

Dallas-based Austin Commercial was recently selected as the general contractor for the project, which will cost $250 million according to the most recent estimate from the race organizers. Another prominent Dallas-based firm, HKS Architects , will design the grandstands and fan amenities for a site that will accommodate more than 120,000 fans. German firm Tilke GmbH will design the track, as it has for almost all the recently built or improved F1 circuits.

Indianapolis hosted the last F1 race in the U.S. in 2007. No date was announced for the 2012 U.S. Grand Prix here as the 2011 racing calendar was unveiled in September.

Race organizers, however, have said they have been advised by the management arm of F1 to be ready to race by June 2012. That month is when Montreal hosts its Grand Prix, the only one currently held in North America. Some have assumed that Austin will be paired with Montreal on the racing calendar. The Statesman

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