Formula One stunned by Texas race deal

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has caused a major surprise by announcing he has secured a ten year deal to hold a Formula One race in the city of Austin, Texas. Significantly, a purpose-built Formula One venue will be constructed to host the Grand Prix – the first of its kind in the United States. Should the plans materialize the first event in Austin will be staged in 2012, marking the first return to the country for the sport since 2007 when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted its last Grand Prix.

Funding and organization for the event would appear to be a combined public/private effort. Ecclestone’s Formula One Management (FOM) has signed an agreement, through to 2021, with Full Throttle Promotions, LP, who will be the local promoters of the race. Full Throttle is a Texas-based company run by part-time racing driver Tavo Hellmund. However Texas Governor Rick Perry and Sudan Combs, the Texas comptroller of public accounts, have both been involved in putting the deal in place. Combs said: "The visibility and prestige of this event will spotlight our state on an international stage."

No financial details were released and plans for the circuit’s location also remain unclear. Recent additions to the Formula One calendar, including Abu Dhabi, have been charged up to US$50 million per year in franchise fees by FOM. Given the importance of the US market to Formula One –particularly to its competing car manufacturers and several blue-chip sponsors – the franchise fee for the new USGP is expected to be significantly less. A purpose-built facility, however, is likely to cost well in excess of US$250 million.

Hellmund said: "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."

He added: "This is a case of the right timing in the right place. As many Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the 'it' cities in the United States. Austin features that rare combination of ideal geographic location and beauty. Its fine dining, world-renowned hospitality and excellent transportation infrastructure make Austin ideally suited to host and manage an event of this magnitude. Few cities if any in America could rival the connectivity of all the key elements needed for hosting a Formula One event as well as Austin. Now, many people around the world will have the opportunity to experience a world-class event, facility and city."

The announcement comes as a huge surprise to the Formula One community, especially as Ecclestone had previously indicated that he would only countenance a return to the US if a race were to be staged in a major market such as New York. News of the new event expands the already-crowded Formula One calendar. Currently a 19-race season, the first Indian Grand Prix is scheduled to be added in 2011 with a race of the streets of Rome, Italy strongly mooted for the following year. SportsPro Media

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