Austin Grand Prix for 2013?
Updated: Hellmund explains war between himself, partners
By Richard Whittaker,
6:41PM, Thu. Nov. 17, 2011
It has been a frantic 48 hours with the track construction suspended and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone saying that it is almost definitely off the 2012 calendar. However, a window of opportunity may be opening for 2013, just as project innovator Tavo Hellmund breaks his silence.
This morning Ecclestone told the British press that the 2012 proposal is all but dead, unless the Austin track management can provide the financial guarantees within weeks. However, he then floated the idea of a new 10 year contract, starting in 2013 – the same year as the first planned New Jersey grand prix. Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton just issued this statement:
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. 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.
Update: This afternoon, Hellmund called a press conference and said that the issue was "a different philosophy of the direction" for the track between himself and his partners. However, Hellmund said that the project had failed to hit major financial obligations earlier this year, and so they had violated the agreement with Formula One.
Hellmund said that, earlier this year, he offered to buy his partners out but they refused. Instead, they have offered to buy him out. So now it seems inevitable that either Hellmund or his investors, Bobby Epstein and Red MCombs, will be hitting the pit early. Hellmund said, "I am willing to do whatever it is for this project to happen, including not be a part of it."
The COTA team has so far declined to comment on Hellmund's statements.
With the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting Dec. 7 to approve the 2012 race calendar, the Austin group would have to come to some form of agreement within the week to ensure the Nov. 18 2012 race date stays. However, that seems increasingly unlikely. This raises real questions about how it would be scheduled in relation to the other American races – Brazil, Canada, and the new New Jersey event – and what it means for the MotoGP and V8 Supercars series also signed up for the track.
Original story posted 2.43pm: Updated 6.41pm.