Yee-ha! Texas shapes up for F1
TRACK ON TRACK: This is a model of the Circuit of the Americas but the real thing is on schedule in Austin, Texas, for a US F1 GP.
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
The organisers of Formula 1's newest Grand Prix in the Texas state capital, Austin, say tickets for the November 18 2012 race are selling strongly and construction is "solidly on schedule".
Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton, speaking to Reuters during a fact-finding visit to the 2012 British GP at Silverstone, said F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the Internatiional Automobile Association were pleased with progress.
The race will be the first US GP since Indianapolis in 2007. Another, in New Jersey against a backdrop of New York's Manhattan skyline, is scheduled for 2013.
TICKETS 'GOING STRONG'
"We're in the time of year now where we've a lot of daylight and no rain so we're making more progress than we even thought we'd make," said Sexton, happy not to have Silverstone's problems of rain and waterlogged car parks. "We're on schedule to be complete. (FIA race director) Charlie Whiting was at our site two or three weeks ago and took a look at it and said we're doing fantastic. He was very pleased."
Sexton said tickets had been on sale for a month and were "going strong" with out-of-state visitors accounting for most of the "thousands and thousands" sold so far.
The race was positioned from the outset to bring tourists to Texas.
F1's most recent new circuits, in India and South Korea, were barely ready by the race weekend with organisers racing against time to lay track and complete buildings. Sexton, however, promised that would not be the case in Texas. "We anticipate small-scale last-minute details," he said, "but we don't anticipate any large last-minute approval that will be necessary."
The first layer of asphalt will have been laid around the whole circuit within the next week, drainage is being laid in at least half the track and roads are being cut in. Temporary seating will start going up in August.
Interior work to circuit facilities is under way and trackside catch fences are being put up.
Sexton said the Austin organisers met periodically with Ecclestone to discuss progress and to ensure everything was up to the Briton's expectations.
"He seems happy but there's nothing the matter with high standards," he added. "He drives a hard bargain but by the same token he has a great respect for the people he works with so the venues have a great respect for him."
Making a profit from the race might be harder, with Ecclestone's fees running to tens of millions of dollars elsewhere, but Sexton said F1 was only part of the picture.
"The business plan was not built entirely on F1 profit. It was built on the profit of a year-round operation with four or five major motorsport events with F1 the signature event," he explained.
There would also be music festivals, with a 17 000 person amphitheatre and a major music partner would be announced in the next month. Other sporting events as well as driving club activity and product launches were also mentioned.
Nascar is not not on the radar but there have been discussions with IndyCar and others.
"Almost... every other major motorsports series has approached us to talk about racing because of where we are located. Texas is a big state, very attractive, 20-million people within 400km," said Sexton.
"It's not just a flat circuit - it has some unique attributes, topography that is very appealing from a driver and a fan perspective because you can see multiple turns from a lot of the views on the east side of the facility."