When the plan was announced last year that Tavo Helmut wanted to create a world-class road racing circuit in Austin Texas and host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, we were rather skeptical. Mike was raising questions about the project as early as June of last year when he asked How Can Austin Succeed Where Indy Failed. Mike again expressed the skepticism that we all were feeling as he looked at 2012 Venues Under Threat. While he took a bashing from many, I couldn’t see any inherent errors in his reasoning at the time: where you have politics, you have uncertainty.
Recently this week, we now hear that politics has indeed reared its ugly head in the case of the Austin USGP. As we discussed in Podcast #112, the contract Tavo had with Bernie is now null and void and the new group, Circuit of the Americas (COTA) has the responsibility of negotiating a new contract. Looming large over the COTA group is that Bernie wants the $25M sanctioning fee up front by December 7th. That money was originally to have been paid in advance by the Texas Major Events Trust Fund, but now those in charge of the public purse strings have claimed that they’ll only make good on the promised $25M after the event, and then only if they approve of the measurable economic impact of the grand prix. It looked like the event was DOA, SOL, USCWOAP [insert your favourite acronym here].
It turns out that there might be a ray of hope for the COTA circuit hosting a Formula 1 grand prix, but it won’t be happening in 2012. In a press release today, COTA president, Steve Sexton, issued the following statement in regards to the current situation for 2012 event and the likelyhood of the inaugural event happening in 2013.
“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.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this smells like Donnington all over again! I really would love to see the COTA circuit come to fruition and host a Formula 1 event, but I’m not making any hotel reservations just yet. The question that I have now is what about the 10-year deal with DORNA and MotoGP, and what about the deal with the Australian V8 SuperCars? Let’s just hope that construction can resume or we may be left with a really expensive off-road truck circuit.