Building at Circuit of the Americas suspended

Circuit of the Americas

Building work at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas has been suspended indefinitely and the future of the 2012 United States Grand Prix is now in serious doubt. Bernie Ecclestone raised concerns over the event on the weekend. When asked about the future of the USGP he replied, “I don’t know. We’re trying. It’s a bit of an uphill struggle there at the moment.

“There are two parties, one is building a track, the other has the contract and they’ve forgotten to talk to each other.”

Further adding to the concerns are new doubts over funding from the Texas government. An annual contribution of $25 million was expected prior to each race, but now Susan Combs who controls the state’s finances has said, “When the United States Grand Prix was formally announced, it was the only Formula 1 race scheduled in the US. During the past 18 months, organizers have taken many steps to bring high-profile motor racing to Central Texas, including the development of the Circuit of the Americas, and the announcement of the global MotoGP and V8 Supercar race series starting in 2013.

“The recent announcement of an annual Formula 1 race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race, thereby decreasing the economic impact. Additionally, the reports of a slowdown in construction at the Circuit of the Americas, and recently publicized disagreements between the race rights-holder and the circuit developers have prompted speculation about whether the Austin race will even occur.”

The two parties referred to by Ecclestone are Tavo Hellmund, the original race promoter, and the body known as Circuit of the Americas, who are responsible for building the track. Central to their dispute is a fight over contracts, or lack thereof, it would seem. Hellmund is withdrawing from his original contract and the terms of that are where the dispute lies. Ecclestone is happy enough to deal with COTA and says the ball is in their court in regards to signing a new contract.

A statement released by COTA contradicts that and states:

“Organizers of Circuit of the Americas, a premier motor sports racing and entertainment venue being developed in Austin, Texas, are suspending further construction of the project until a contract assuring the Formula One United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of the Americas in 2012 is complete. The race contract between Formula One and Circuit of the Americas has not been conveyed to Circuit of the Americas per a previously agreed upon timetable.

“While construction at Circuit of the Americas has progressed as scheduled with over 300 workers at the construction site daily, all work will suspend immediately. The delivery of the Formula One Grand Prix race contract will allow construction operations to resume.

“We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern,” said Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of the Americas. “We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula One and its teams and sponsors. Given the purpose-built Tilke design, creating a unique fan experience and iconic challenge for drivers, we hope that Texas will not be left behind. Over 100,000 fans have expressed an interest in purchasing tickets for Formula One alone.”

Ecclestone has confirmed an initial sanctioning fee for the Austin race is overdue and if things aren’t sorted soon the 2012 USGP could be cancelled as soon as next month when the FIA World Motor Sport Council next meets.

[Source: JAF1, Speed.tv & ESPN]