F1 vets a 2nd track, though Austin would be ‘U.S.’ Prix
new Jersey, new York groups look to land a formula One race
Formula One is looking to add a second U.S stop, along with Austin, to its future race calendar, but F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said the Austin race would get the prestigious title of the U.S. Grand Prix.
Ecclestone made those comments in a phone conversation last week with the AmericanStatesman. Since then it has been reported that engineers from the German firm that does most of the F1 construction work, Tilke GmbH, have been in New Jersey.
The Monticello Motor Club in New York also remains in discussions with F1 management about staging a Grand Prix, according to Monticello president Ari Straus.
However, Ecclestone said, “There are no agreements. We haven’t finalized anything.”
Allen Spelce, a spokesman for Texas Comptroller Susan
Combs, said the New Jersey announcement would not have an impact on the state’s agreement with promoter Tavo Hellmund to pay $25 million per year toward the sanctioning fee F1 charges local promoters to host a race. Hellmund, managing partner of Full Throttle Productions, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Until Hellmund’s group stunned the motorsports world by landing the F1 race, the apparent frontrunner for the U.S. stop had been Monticello, a luxury driving resort just northwest of New York City. A proposed site in New Jersey, at Liberty State Park, was quickly nixed by Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy in March.
On Tuesday, veteran F1 race organizer Chris Pook of Long Beach, Calif., confirmed that he was working with the current New Jersey group. Citing a nondisclosure agreement, Pook declined to provide any further details, including the location of the proposed site.
Pook brought the U.S. Grand Prix West to the streets of Long Beach in 1976. At that time, Watkins Glen, also in New York state, hosted the U.S. Grand Prix. In addition to that race, Pook has been involved with F1 events in Detroit, Las Vegas and Dallas.
Some years have seen more than one F1 race in the U.S. There were three F1 Grand Prix races in 1982 — in Detroit, Las Vegas and Long Beach — which remains the only time three F1 Grand Prix races were held in the same country.
There are currently 19 stops on the F1 calendar, which runs from mid-March to mid-November. Because of the large cost of transporting equipment, many assume that the North American stops would be grouped close together. The Canadian Grand Prix was held June 11-13 this year.
At a recent F1 fan forum in London, influential McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said, “I think 20 races is a lot in my opinion. … Twenty races is three-day events at 60 days of the year, and I don’t think our product is one that you want greater exposure than that.”
At the same forum, Lotus boss Tony Fernandes expressed hopes for better marketing of the sport. “Maybe we should be working in America already so that when we do arrive in Texas (in 2012), there is a lot of anticipation for it,” Fernandes said. “But if we just turn up for two weeks and expect everywhere to be full, I don’t think it will happen.”
In May, Austin was announced as the site of the U.S. Grand Prix. A track location has not been made public, and construction has yet to begin.
Ecclestone acknowledges the 2012 deadline is an ambitious one. “If this was in Asia, I wouldn’t be that concerned,” he said. “I don’t know how long it takes to build things in America these days.”