Officials at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas, the venue being built to host the return of Grand Prix racing on the United States’ soil in 2012, have called a halt to further construction work at the Austin site.
There have been some questions raised about the event, after F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone made some worrying comments that the building effort was well behind schedule, which led to a flurry of denials from Stateside.
Since then, there seems to have been more airing of dirty linen, with circuit officials seemingly locked in a dispute with the Texas state government and the event’s promoter, Tavo Hellmund, who holds the contract to stage the race.
Texas state controller Susan Combs has now confirmed that taxpayers would not be funding a cent until the event had actually taken place, which is a complete about-face of the original agreement that had a lump-sum payment being made a year ahead of the race, with further payments to be made thereafter.
“When the United States Grand Prix was formally announced, it was the only Formula One race scheduled in the [United States],” she is quoted as saying.
“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 One 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,” she added.
“Additionally, the reports of a slowdown in construction at the Circuit of the Americas, and recently publicised disagreements between the race rights-holder and the circuit developers have prompted speculation about whether the Austin race will even occur. The ongoing controversies are a concern and we will continue to monitor them.
“Let me state clearly: We have not paid out any money for the Formula One event. The only dollars that can be spent on the United States Grand Prix are tax revenues attributable to the successful running of a race. The state of Texas will not be paying any funds in advance of the event.”
What is interesting is that Combs has effectively blamed the recent announcement of a second American race at New Jersey as a trigger for the Texas government being nervous about the future of the race at Austin. Logic says that both races – being geographically very far apart – will have no impact on each other from a ticket revenue perspective, but if this trench warfare continues for much longer, then it could get very ugly.
One must therefore conclude that Combs is trying to force someone’s hand, with the main theory being to get Hellmund to sign over the race contract to the circuit’s owners to tie up the risk of either party bailing from the deal.
Continuing the tit-for-tat, the circuit officials have now suspended all construction work “until a contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012” is presented to them.
Expect more developments to this story in the coming days…
[Image via AUTOSPORT]