Austin Grand Prix plunged into doubt after track construction is stopped in dispute over race contract
|By Jonathan Noble
||Wednesday, November 16th 2011, 02:24 GMT
The Austin Grand Prix has been plunged into fresh doubt after construction work at the track was stopped this week on the back of a dispute among the race organisers.
Amid growing uncertainty about the event, with Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone revealing to team principals in India that he was unsure if the race would go ahead, the matter has now reached a critical point with construction at the venue being halted.
A row has grown between the promoters of the event, Full Throttle Productions - which owns the rights to host the race - and the circuit organisers who are building the venue.
The race hosting deal needs to be transferred to the Circuit of the Americas for the event to go ahead, but this has not happened.
A statement issued by the track on Tuesday night said that work would not resume until that contract was in place.
Bobby Epstein, founding partner of the Circuit of the Americas, said: "We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula 1 and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern.
"We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula 1 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. More than 100,000 fans have expressed an interest in purchasing tickets for Formula 1 alone."
A subsequent statement from Full Throttle Productions said: "After years of effort in getting F1 to Austin, Full Throttle Productions and city, county and state officials have done all we could.
"It is the responsibility of Circuit of the Americas to bring it across the finish line. For the sake of everyone, we are hopeful that they can reach an agreement with Formula 1."
Ecclestone told reporters at last week's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that the Austin GP event was facing difficulties to secure its place on the calendar.
"We are trying," he said. "It is a bit of an uphill struggle but we will try and get there.
"There are two parties. One has got a track and is building it, and the other has got the contract. And they forgot to talk to each other."
There is now some urgency to get the Austin matter sorted, because the FIA World Motor Sport Council is due to confirm the 2012 calendar at its next meeting early next month.
If the uncertainty continues, or the contract is not in place, then the FIA may have no choice but to drop the event from the calendar.
F1 team principals think it vital that the sport properly breaks through into the American market, although whether that is next year or with the New Jersey race in 2013 remains to be seen.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "America doesn't need F1, we need America. So I think we are excited by the prospect of going to the States.
"Bernie, I am sure, is working very hard on the Texas race and the New Jersey race, and it is in our programme. We assume we are going there.
"I imagine, as is often the case, there is some posturing and negotiation, but that is not our business. The calendar says we are going there, that is what we are planning on, and that is what we are looking forward to."