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DATE News (chronologically)
11/24/11
f1
Rumors hint at 2013 delay for Austin F1 race  UPDATE #7 This rumor is downgraded to 'false today.  See hot news whereby Circuit of Americas has agreed to meet Bernie Ecclestone's terms and keep their 2012 F1 date.

11/17/11 Austin Grand Prix chiefs are ready to accept moving their inaugural race back to 2013, after conceding for the first time that next year's race is probably not going to happen.  Organizers of Circuit of The Americas are responding to reported statements in the media by Bernie Ecclestone as follows:

“We have been excited for and working towards a 2012 USGP race and now understand that Mr. Ecclestone is interested in moving the Austin race to 2013,” stated Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of The Americas. “We know the U.S. market is important to the teams and their sponsors and 2013 certainly allows time for the Circuit of The Americas to be ready.”

11/17/11 Bernie Ecclestone has stressed that Circuit of the Americas' final chance to save the 2012 US GP will come well before the World Motor Sport Council meeting in New Delhi, India on Dec. 7.

Ecclestone clearly wants time to shuffle the F1 calendar around before the WMSC gathering, should it be decided that Austin is definitely out.

“It needs to be before that,” the F1 chief executive told Reuters Thursday. “We don’t need any deadlines, having to thrash around at the last minute to do something. It’s gone on long enough. zzzz

“They have got next week, anyway. We are going to be in Brazil so they can come back next week.”

Ecclestone made it clear that he held out little hope that the event could be saved, stressing that it all boiled down to lack of finance. The Texas state had promised to fund the $25 million sanction fee before Comptroller Susan Combs seemingly changed her mind.

“There’s nothing to save. They can’t bloody well pay," Ecclestone said. "What do you want me to do: Wait until next year? To put all our cars on it, run around the circuit and everything and come back with no money? The teams want paying.

“It’s not brinkmanship; it never has been with me. I’ve been trying to do a deal now with these people for 18 months or more. ... If they had the money, I’m sure there would be no problem.” speedtv.com

The Austin site will just become a mud hole now
11/16/11
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says he is ready to axe the Austin Grand Prix in the wake of internal disputes between the race organizers.  Ecclestone had intimated in India that the race was at risk, but the situation reached a critical point this week when circuit construction was halted amidst a growing row between the event promoters and the track's organizers.

"We've done everything we bloody well can to make this race happen," Ecclestone told the Press Association. When asked whether the race was in danger of being dropped, he replied: "Yes, it will be for sure, 100 per cent."

Ecclestone said that his original contract, with Tavo Hellmund's Full Throttle Productions company - who owned the rights to host the race - had been cancelled recently.

He said he had instead started negotiations with the track developers, the Circuit of The Americas, who halted construction work on Tuesday after claiming contract talks had not progressed as previously agreed.

Ecclestone says he is yet to receive a guarantee of payment from COTA, and has given them three weeks to resolve the situation or risk having the race dropped from the 2012 Formula 1 calendar when the World Motor Sport Council meets in New Delhi on December 7.

"We had an agreement with Full Throttle Productions," Ecclestone explained. "Everything was signed and sealed, but we kept putting things off like the dates, various letters of credit and things that should have been sent, but nothing ever happened.

"Then these other people [COTA] came on the scene, saying that they wanted to do things, but that they had problems with Tavo [Hellmund]. They said they had the circuit, and that they wanted an agreement with me.

"I told them they had to sort out the contract with Tavo, which they said they would. But that has gone away now because we've cancelled Tavo's contract as he was in breach.

"We've waited six months for him to remedy the breach. He knows full well why we've cancelled. He's happy. But these other people haven't got a contract. All we've asked them to do is get us a letter of credit.

"We are looking for security for money they are going to have to pay us. That is via a letter of credit, normally from a bank. If people don't have the money they find it difficult to get the letter of credit, and so we don't issue a contract." Autosport

11/16/11 Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, will go down as the day when the racing died in Austin, Texas. The 2012 Formula One United States Grand Prix, as well as the track that would host it, the Circuit of the Americas, were dealt a one-two punch that seems unsurvivable, though neither the race nor the track has formally been pronounced dead.

Of course, neither has Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign but we all know how that's going.

The two punches that apparently finished off the race and the track, which have been ailing for six months, began when Texas comptroller Susan Combs, by far the biggest fan motorsports had in the state government, backed away Tuesday from a gutsy incentive she helped engineer.

Using a special state trust fund which, more than 200 times, has provided money to encourage big annual public events to come to Texas, Combs was going to advance race organizers $25 million a year, to be repaid by the projected additional tax money generated from the event, mostly from tourists.

This $25 million, to be paid up to one year in advance of the U.S. Grand Prix, would have roughly covered the annual sanctioning fee to F1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone. This is a lot of money--probably double or triple a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sanctioning fee--but it is also a comparative bargain, given what some race organizers in other countries must pay Ecclestone. This contract was assigned to Full Throttle Productions, headed by Tavo Hellmund, whose personal family relationship dating back 40 years with Ecclestone was an enormous factor in getting the deal. It was not assigned to the other two founding partners of Circuit of the Americas: Colorful businessman Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein, the low-key founder of a money management firm.

So here comes Punch One: Comptroller Combs, clearly weary of the infighting inside Circuit of the Americas, announced Tuesday that she would not advance the $25 million to the organizers, which--had all gone well--could have been paid as early as Saturday. The debut F1 race was scheduled for Nov. 18, 2012, and the guidelines, particular to this one race event, said the money could be advanced as early as 364 days before the event takes place.

That option is gone. Now, the state would offer up the money after the race, assuming certain criteria were met. To get the race now, promoters would have to advance that $25 million out of pocket, assuming such a semi-sweetheart deal is even on the table. By all indications, it is not.

Which leads up to Punch Two: Financier and main money man Epstein--billionaire investor McCombs is reportedly in for less than 10 percent of the budgeted $300 million or so--would like to have Hellmund's 10-year F1 contract assigned to Circuit of the Americas and not Hellmund's Full Throttle Productions. Ecclestone has apparently offered Epstein a new contract but not at the friends-and-family rate Hellmund received. For whatever reason, according to multiple sources, Epstein doesn't like the contract Ecclestone provided.

So later Tuesday afternoon Circuit of the Americas, which apparently no longer includes co-founder Hellmund, issued a statement: "Organizers of Circuit of the Americas, a premier motorsports racing and entertainment venue being developed in Austin, Texas, are suspending further construction of the project until a contract assuring the Formula One United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of the Americas in 2012 is complete. The race contract between Formula One and Circuit of the Americas has not been conveyed to Circuit of the Americas per a previously agreed upon timetable."

What "previously agreed timetable" is that? No one is talking. Presumably, Hellmund expected to get paid for landing a 10-year F1 contract, a 10-year MotoGP contract, bringing Australian V8 Supercars to the U.S., locating a site for the track, arranging for Tilke, the top F1 track designer in the world to create it, and getting the state of Texas to advance the money for the sanctioning fee. Presumably, he has not been paid what he expects. But again, no one is talking aside from prepared statements.

This is Hellmund's: "After years of effort in getting F1 to Austin, Full Throttle Productions and city, county and state officials have done all we could. It is the responsibility of Circuit of the Americas to bring it across the finish line."

In the past few months, there has been evidence that Epstein, who is used to running his own show, wants to run this one, too, which is sort of like George Steinbrenner insisting that he should coach his New York Yankees, except that Steinbrenner actually had some experience in baseball. Epstein may be guilty of thinking he can bluff or shame Ecclestone into awarding Austin a new sweetheart deal, but the F1 king has countries, tracks and promoters standing by, begging for a race. He does not need Austin, especially since he has the New Jersey race on tap beginning in 2013.

Thus, barring something that would qualify as a motorsports miracle, there will be no F1 race in Austin, which--according to Epstein's statement--means there will be no Circuit of the Americas, either.

So what will happen to this big, $40-million (that's dollars spent until now and a long way from what is needed for completion) mud hole near Austin? Perhaps the world's nicest RallyCross track? Presumably it could be completed as a less-ambitious, cheaper paved track, attracting lesser racing series, but only NASCAR Sprint Cup would essentially guarantee a profitable product, and Sprint Cup isn't coming to Austin. AutoWeek

11/14/11 This AutoWeek article sheds more light on the situation in Texas.  It's possible the USA will only have one F1 race when it's all said and done, and it will be in Weehawken, NJ overlooking Manhattan.  If you are Bernie Ecclestone or a major sponsor, where would you prefer to entertain your corporate guests, the desolate hills outside of Austin, Texas or Manhattan?  After the first year would fans really return to Austin, which lacks enough hotel rooms, and you can't compare downtown Austin (nice, but quiet by F1 standards) to the opulence F1 is used to at many tracks they race on.  With so much money spent to build the track, would there be enough return on investment?

11/03/11 (GMM)  The first US grand prix in Texas could be delayed a year until 2013, according to the latest rumors and reports.

It is believed the Austin venue, where permits for vertical construction have only just been issued, will be discussed during Thursday's F1 Commission meeting in Geneva.

Bernie Ecclestone is reported to have said in India last weekend that he believes there are "issues" within the group that is organizing the 2012 race.

KVUE News visited the site this week and reported "business as usual".

But as for F1 chief executive Ecclestone, he has "left the door open", according to F1 insider Don Batson of International Marketing Development. zzzz

"I think he (Ecclestone) is talking about the fact that there is some conflict in Austin, that there has been a construction slowdown that is kind of hard to explain other than there being some kind of a conflict internally," agreed Autoweek's Steven Cole.

The rumor now is that the inaugural 2012 race date could be pushed back to 2013.

"It (2012) is certainly doable for next year," Batson insisted, "although they do have a lot to accomplish."

Cole said he will be waiting for news to emerge from the F1 Commission on Thursday.

"(There) could be good news for Austin, could be bad news, I'm guessing there will probably be no news because as far as I know they still have time to make the November (2012) date," he said.

The Circuit of the Americas organization did not comment.

11/02/11 The Circuit of the Americas has received permits from Travis County to begin above-ground construction on five significant buildings, including the main grandstand for the track southeast of Austin.

County officials issued permits Friday authorizing construction of the grandstand, the pit building and the teams building at the $300 million racetrack. The county also approved construction of the track's media center and medical building, said Teresa Calkins, a senior engineer for Travis County.

Jeff Hahn, a spokesman for the Circuit of the Americas, said about 200 concrete piers are being placed as part of the foundations for the buildings. Hahn said the depth of the piers varies, depending on soil conditions. Work on the piers for the pit building and the grandstand is scheduled to be completed by Saturday.

Last week, a steady stream of concrete mixers were seen entering the work site as crews fashioned the foundations for the buildings. This week, a group of cranes dominate the skyline at the site. On Tuesday, the worker's parking lot was almost full. A few weeks ago, it was virtually deserted.

The 3.4-mile circuit is scheduled to host its inaugural Formula One U.S. Grand Prix on Nov. 18 of next year.

The recently issued construction permits were approved by the county fire marshal and the county's transportation and natural resources department.

According to documents provided to the American-Statesman by county officials, permits for six pedestrian bridges at the track are pending. Such things as the paving of Circuit of the Americas Boulevard — and the creation of helipads, grass parking areas and driveways connected to Travis County roadways — have yet to be authorized for the project. The Statesman

11/01/11 AUTOSPORT reports that F1 commercial rights manager Bernie Ecclestone informed team principals over the Indian Grand Prix weekend that there are some questions regarding the new United States Grand Prix in Austin, while the position of the 2012 Bahrain and Korean Grands Prix also have been added to the agenda for Thursday's meeting of the F1 Commission in Geneva.

Ecclestone said that, while construction work at Austin's Circuit of the Americas is ongoing, there are issues inside the company that is putting the event together.

"I don't think they are struggling [with building the track] at all," he explained. "I think there has been a disagreement inside the company."

When asked if he was certain the race would take place in 2012 as scheduled on Nov. 18, Ecclestone said: "If you had said to me a month ago, is this [the Indian GP] 100 percent going to happen then I would have said, 'I don't know.' So ask me a month before the race is due to happen."

Ecclestone said that the recently announced deal for New Jersey to hold a grand prix in 2013 would reduce the negative impact if Austin's arrival on the grand prix calendar was delayed.

"We can have it next year or the year after," he said of a renewed United States Grand Prix. "It is not the end of the world." Racer.com

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