USGP to return

UPDATE #4 (GMM) A United States grand prix will once again feature on the formula one calendar. In the midst of reports that New York was Bernie Ecclestone's favored location, the sport announced late on Tuesday that Austin, Texas will in fact stage its first race in 2012.

The 10-year contract is for a "purpose-built" facility, F1 chief executive Ecclestone said in a statement, although details including an actual site, cost or race date were not released.

A report of the AP news agency said the venue would be built "within 10 miles" of Austin airport.

The promoter is Full Throttle Productions, headed by Tavo Hellmund, who Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs revealed has a "30 year relationship with Mr. Ecclestone".

"We have been diligently working together for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of Texas and back to the United States," said Hellmund.

"We realize that over the last 30 years there have been one or two missing pieces from the previous editions of the formula one United States grand prix," he added.

Never on a purpose-built circuit, previous US grands prix have been held at Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix.

Between 2000 and 2007, the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the event, and spokesman Fred Nation on Tuesday questioned whether the "business deal" between F1 and Austin is a sound one.

"Since 2007, we have been asked many times about having formula one return, and our answer has been the same each time: if the business deal is right, they are welcome back.

"If such a deal is in place in Austin, we wish both the city and formula one success for a race in the United States," he said.

05/25/10 Austin, Texas has signed a deal to host the USGP for the next 10-years. See this news item.

05/25/10 (GMM) Monticello Motor Club, located about a 90 minute drive from New York City, has been given a 20 per cent chance of hosting the United States grand prix starting in 2012 or 2013.

It emerged last week that the private club's president Ari Strauss told members the venue is in talks with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and had already been visited by circuit designer Hermann Tilke.

He wrote in a letter that he is now working on securing political backing, insisting it "is not a done deal".

But a new report by the local daily Times Herald-Record reveals that Strauss and club chairman William McMichael also met recently with Ecclestone in London.

A considerable stumbling-block is that the $35 million track – built in 2008 at the old Monticello airport and with comedian Jerry Seinfeld among its members – needs $150m in improvements and then millions every year for F1's sanctioning fee.

"We are cautiously optimistic," Straus said. "If you told me I had to bet on it, I would say there is a 20 per cent chance."

05/25/10 Last week, AutoWeek broke the news that Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York wants to host a U.S. Grand Prix, possibly as soon as 2012. Now comes evidence that the claim by MMC executives is much more than wishful thinking, and confirms that–whether or not F1 makes a deal with MMC–New York remains the Grand Prix circuit's No. 1 U.S. destination.

AutoWeek has obtained a copy of a letter written to MMC by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, dated March 24, 2010. It reads in part: “The superior quality of your existing four-mile racetrack, combined with your proximity to New York City, makes MMC an excellent candidate to host the FIA Formula One World Championship. While we discussed the basic terms between F1 and MMC, we understand that the next critical stage is your local and state government's support to this endeavor.

“New York is our preferred venue for a USA round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. We hope that you are able to quickly secure the commitments required so that we can have our inaugural MMC F1 event by 2012.

“Before you start the necessary modifications to your circuit, we must agree [on] the outstanding issues and sign a formal agreement. Quite obviously you would want to do this for your own protection.

“I look forward to visiting with you soon."

According to another letter written by MMC president Ari Strauss, he and MMC chairman Bill McMichael met with Ecclestone a few months ago to talk about hosting a Grand Prix, with an eye toward a long-term, 10-year deal. Hermann Tilke, the architect of F1's modern venues, visited MMC and reported that the facility is capable of hosting F1, though expansion and modifications are necessary.

In an interview with AutoWeek last Friday, McMichael said he understands skepticism about the plan, but pointed out that New York City is 90 minutes away from MMC–under normal traffic conditions, that is–and is a natural fit for F1, and that the track could draw from 50 million people living within a 200-mile radius.

Asked whether the two-lane roads leading to the circuit are fit to accommodate a Grand Prix, he said, “If you look at some other major circuits around the world, a lot of them have two-lane roads going in and out. . . . But like any major event, we'd have a traffic plan in place. . . . When you have 125,000 or 150,000 people show up for anything, it's gonna be busy. Certainly our highways systems, we think, can handle it."

McMichael said that early estimates point to a required investment of $100 million to $150,000 million to prepare MMC to host F1, and that the money would come from a combination of public and private financing–which he said he believes is worth it, based on a potential $100-million-plus economic impact on the region each year of the deal. He declined to specify exactly what such a financing package might entail.

McMichael said plans must fall into place within “the next several months" for there to be any chance of hosting a race in 2012.

Formula One last raced in the United States in 2007, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosted the event for eight years.

The long track at Monticello is 3.5-miles long

05/20/10 A letter has gone out to members of New York's Monticello Motor Club, an exclusive driving resort race track ninety miles from Manhattan, informing them of progress in talks to bring the US Grand Prix to the facility for 10 years, starting in 2012.

Ari Straus, President of MMC, has told exclusively: "MMC Chairman Bill McMichael and I are honored that Formula One World Championship is considering Monticello Motor Club as a venue for the United States Grand Prix, and we are taking this opportunity with all the seriousness it requires. Hermann Tilke has surveyed the facility and laid out what modifications we need to implement, from the standpoint of the circuit, as well as access and local infrastructure."

The circuit was opened in 2008 in the lower Catskill mountains, as a resort for driving enthusiasts, and boasts a membership roster that includes NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon and entertainer Jerry Seinfeld. It has been used exclusively for non-commercial purposes until now, but is poised to make the changes necessary to accept an event of the level of Formula One. It is currently the nearest major road course racing circuit to New York City.

Straus: "We are in a position to move forward for many reasons, notably our proximity to the New York City metropolitan area, and the flexibility we have in terms of making changes to the track itself and its access for fans. Our members are a very forward thinking group of individuals who are a great asset themselves to this project, on different many levels."

Mr. Straus further asserts that realistic funding is in place to warrant moving forward and that a letter of intent has been signed by Formula One management, that allows the next steps to be to be taken.

Mr. Straus and Mr. McMichael have been engaged in talks with F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone for the past few months, and while admittedly far from a done deal, signs point towards this being a serious project.

The Full Letter to Club Members:

Dear member,

Within the next day, you may read that Formula One is planning a return to the United States and has their sights on a special location in New York: Monticello Motor Club.

A few months ago, [MMC chairman] Bill McMichael and I met with Bernie Ecclestone, President/CEO of Formula One Management (FOM), and discussed the terms for an exclusive 10-year United States Grand Prix to be hosted at MMC. Shortly thereafter, Hermann Tilke, the chief engineer and circuit designer for F1, spent time at MMC and confirmed that our track and surrounding properties, with some expansion and minor track modifications, is an excellent location for a Grand Prix. Since receiving a letter of understanding from FOM confirming their hope to bring the U.S. Grand Prix to Monticello, Bill and I have continued to secure the backing and support of local, state, and federal politicians and organizations.

If F1 comes to Monticello, our intent is to preserve MMC as, first and foremost, a private country club. Obviously, demand will accelerate as well as the initiation fee for new members. But securing F1 is like winning the Olympics, competition is fierce, and this is not a done deal. While the prospect of F1 at MMC is exciting, we remain focused on our core business: the club and its members.

At this juncture, we are simply honored that F1 is considering our venue as the future, exclusive home for the U.S. Grand Prix. It would transform the region into one of the motorsports capitals of the world, bring thousands of jobs to Sullivan County, inject over $100M each year into the local economy, and place your private club in the company of famous racing circuits like Monza and Spa.

Warmest regards,


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