NJ race still in doubt (Update) UPDATE Formula One fans have followed the “will it or won't it happen” saga of the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial in New Jersey since its executive chairman, Leo Hindery Jr., first announced the project in October 2011.
The planned street race would take place in Weehawken and West New York, N.J., just across the Hudson River from Manhattan -- America's No. 1 media marketplace, and a venue F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has long coveted for the world championship.
But doubts have plagued this deal from the jump. The original plan to hold the race in 2013 fell through due to a lack of funding. According to a document UBS financial services prepared in June this year and provided to potential investors -- and obtained by Autoweek -- Hindery and his management team are seeking $100 million to make the Grand Prix of America a reality.
Here's the bad news, race fans, though we await official confirmation: It won't happen, at least not next year. The money is not in place, according to heavy-hitting industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Their demand to remain nameless is always a journalist's nightmare -- and no surprise in the clandestine world of motorsports business, let alone F1 business.
But wait, you say, the FIA released its 2014 F1 calendar in September; New Jersey is slated for June 1. Yes, but notice the “provisional” next to it? There's a reason, and it's not the “pending circuit approval” notation. No, New Jersey had to be included on this still animalized lineup because Hindery and Co. in September paid the FIA a $238,900 registration fee. But the fee -- a pittance in F1 terms -- only guaranteed inclusion on this version of the schedule, nothing more.
Why pay a dollar if the Grand Prix won't happen in 2014? Because management hasn't given up on securing capital and seeing the red lights go out eventually, perhaps in 2015, and perhaps by an entirely new ownership group.
Sutton Images - Executive chairman Leo Hindery has been a tough person to pin down for an interview over the past several months and declined interviews on the day New Jersey was placed as a provisional race on the 2014 F1 schedule.
Signs of instability are the last thing the group wants to show potential investors or outright buyers. (The UBS document states, “Incoming investors may choose to leverage the current [management] team's expertise or could acquire 100 percent of [Port Imperial Racing Associates,]” in other words, the entire operation.)
Red flag No. 1: Savvy F1 observers might reasonably interpret this provisional June 1 date as a between-the-lines message from often-mischievous Ecclestone, who, only a month prior to the calendar's release, emphatically told Autoweek F1 correspondent Adam Cooper at Spa-Francorchamps that New Jersey's date “never was going to be June.” For one thing, the date means F1 is scheduled to visit Monaco, New Jersey and Canada on back-to-back-to-back weekends, a near logistical impossibility, according to sporting directors at Ferrari and Sauber. But if Ecclestone knows Port Imperial isn't happening, wherever he lists it, then this provisional date is irrelevant. June is as good as Neveruary.
Could he have lied to our man Cooper? Many regard Ecclestone in unflattering terms, but one thing longtime F1 journalists do not accuse him of is lying blatantly when asked direct questions. And remember, New Jersey was on the provisional list last year, too…
An even brighter red flag: Where is Hindery? He has declined interview requests repeatedly -- even on Sept. 27, the day his race appeared on the calendar. More between the lines: If you spend years working to bring the world's most popular, glamorous and wealthiest motorsport to Metropolis, get it on the calendar and are confident it's for real, wouldn't your PR staff actively line up as many interviews as possible? Light up social media with abandon? Wouldn't you stand in front of the Manhattan skyline holding another joyous if not self-congratulatory press conference similar to the original one in October 2011 -- and for which the late Speed TV interrupted its regularly scheduled programming to broadcast live?
Absolutely. Hindery, however, looks like the first race promoter in history to consider free publicity a negative -- and in New York City of all places. At the opposite end of the promoter spectrum, witness Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, who on Sept. 24 held a press event to announce his track's new (and the world's largest) HD video screen.
He even named it (“Big Hoss”). And he mailed media members T-shirts to commemorate the, um, historical occasion. Sure, Gossage is much more of a natural-born carnival barker than just about anyone left in U.S. racing; you can't expect every promoter to be quite like him. But an F1 race in the Manhattan area? We received a canned statement attributed to Hindery: “The entire Grand Prix of America team is thrilled to join the 2014 FIA calendar and we look forward to bringing world-class Formula One racing to New Jersey.”
That's it. No, really.
Regardless, time is almost officially up on any chance of F1 visiting New Jersey next season. Ecclestone recently told Autoweek contributor and Formula Money editor Christian Sylt, “the $100 million needs to be in place by the end of November, and the final calendar will be released in December.”
There's no reason to believe after two years of attempted fundraising, and the full amount still not secured, that it will appear at the 11th hour.
The lack of action and announcements -- and Hindery's silence -- is loud and clear. AutoWeek09/30/13 The F1 Grand Prix of America in New Jersey has been included on the official '14 F1 calendar released Friday, but "just as it was last year," the Grand Prix of America's June 1 spot in '14 was "accompanied by an asterisk indicating that the race's inclusion on the schedule was provisional, and 'subject to circuit approval,' by F1," according to Steve Strunsky of the Newark STAR-LEDGER.
The 22-race calendar for '14 "would amount to a record number of races" for the circuit. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has said publicly that he "envisions the final calendar will include 20 or 21 races." Port Imperial Racing Associates, the group working to stage the New Jersey race, "issued an optimistically worded statement ... welcoming the news" despite the event's provisional status. Strunsky noted one positive difference "between the race's prospects for 2014 versus its postponement this year is that permission to work on the course was granted late this summer by Hudson County." However, "doubts remain." Newark STAR-LEDGER.
In New Jersey, John Brennan reported more than 100,000 people are "expected to attend the three-day event, most arriving by public transportation due to a lack of parking at the site." The race is to "receive no government subsidies per orders" from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. That has "led to questions" about whether F1 Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery "could raise enough money." NORTHJERSEY.com