Viewing entries tagged

Mid-August Target for COTA

Circuit officials are meeting with Bernie Ecclestone this week in London to discuss progress at the facility.  According to Jonathan Noble of Autosport, several members of the executive team including President Steve Sexton, Executive VP Bruce Knox, Director of Racing Operations Chuck Aksland, and Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Geoff Moore.

Geoff Moore was quoted by Noble:

"The race is on. Construction is happening six days a week. The paddock buildings are being topped off, work on the main grandstand has started and we are looking at mid-August for completion."

Details about other discussions with Ecclestone have not been released, though the most promising news in this story is the mid-August target completion date.

The mid-August date gives a three month buffer before the scheduled Nov 18 USGP and an opportunity to hold other events at the circuit.  In presentations from COTA, they have spoken about programming at the circuit to include bike or foot races, smaller racing series, large scale conferences and live entertainment.  Details about such events have been relatively vague since the April 2011 press conference but are more likely to emerge over the coming months with this new target date. Without a doubt, there will be the need to hold an event of some kind before the first Formula 1 race.  I don't think anyone would expect the F1 race to be the first thing held at COTA so we'll have to wait to see what this event will be.

Mid-August is roughly 7 months from today, and though that might seem unattainable, with a 6-day crew going two or three shifts, it is possible.  Over the past month, the paddock building has completely transformed from a foundation into a three story building and the main grandstand foundation is going in as we speak.  Let's hope, for construction's sake, for another dry spring and summer.

Tavo Hellmund Speaks About Future of F1 in Austin

 /// Audio Recording of Tavo Hellmund Press Conference

/// Overview of Press Conference

Just a few hours ago, Tavo Hellmund called a press conference to address the growing concern about the future of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix to take place at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas next November.  In this conference, he explained the complicated situation that has lead to increased scrutiny by Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone and spoke more about his own relationship with Circuit of The Americas.

In a tiny room packed to capacity in downtown Austin, Tavo and his attorney, Casey Dobson, began by calming the waters which have lead to a full scale media assault on the future of Formula 1 in Austin. Tavo was confident in his belief that this will be sorted out, but conveyed a sense of frustration with his partners in order to get FOM (Formula One Managment) their sanctioning fee for the upcoming race.

Unlike the speculation by many media outlets that Tavo has been solely to blame and responsible for the events leading up to this situation, Tavo enlightened us on the past several months leading up to this day.  Most notably that the race was always supposed to be post-Montreal (in June), and due to concerns about circuit completion schedule, Bernie was helpful in accomodating the move to November on the calendar.

However, this schedule change did not effect the initial $25million payment to Bernie which was still due in late July, and though Bernie was very patient, the investors have been unable to provide these funds even several months afterward.  Thus, the contract Tavo had with Bernie is now considered breached and Bernie has still not been paid.

At this point in the press conference, Tavo expressed several times that the money just isn't there, and the Circuit of The Americas has put him in a difficult situation.  He conveyed several times that he is not a money man, and though his expertise in motorsports and promotions are very, very valuable to the success of Formula 1 in the US, he has been sidelined by his own partners due to a "difference in vision for the project."  Tavo did not elaborate on what this difference is, or what portion of the project has caused this conflict, but it's clear that Tavo is confident he has gone above and beyond his duties to his partners and is the primary man pushing for this work work out.

Many of the other reporters asked Tavo questions about his status with the team and whether he had been 'pushed out' of the project.  Tavo did respond with a simple statement that he had been offered a buyout but he did not disclose any details.

/// Conjecture

Today Tavo spoke more about the internal conflicts involving a "difference in vision for the project" which fall in line with Bernie's claims a few weeks ago.  Whether the nature of these conflicts have made solidifying the funding for the project difficult has not yet been proven but it's likely that the other partners are looking to solidify their race contracts before investing any more money into the project.  What remains to be seen is if COTA is willing and ready to work with Tavo to make it happen, assuming of course that they aren't trying to get their own race contract on their own.

All statements from COTA the past week have indicated they are ready to do so.

Of course all anyone really cares about is if this race is going to happen, and at this point there are still some things that we need to see before we know for sure.  The first would be the funding for the race contract to be secured and sent to Bernie ASAP, this would solidify the race on the calendar and cast the doubt aside.  The second is for the Circuit and Tavo to iron out the details of their relationship to ensure a positive outcome for all parties.

As Tavo said in the conference, no one has put more blood, sweat and tears into this project than him, and his background combined with his connections within the industry make him THE person to ensure the Grand Prix is a success.  When I first met Tavo in July 2010, following inital F1USGP Press Conference, I immediately felt confident that he was the man with the vision and determination to see this project through and it would be a severe tragedy to see Tavo left behind on this project for problems that can be worked out.

You can read our live tweets from the press conference by clicking here.

Given the gravity of today's press conference, we expect more developments from all parties involved and will continue to bring them to you for the latest updates.


The Show Must Go On

All eyes on Austin in this time of uncertainty for the Formula One United States Grand Prix, still slated to begin in Austin in one year. Despite the recent interpretations of fact and soundbytes, at the end of the day (well, today at least!) there is still a November 18, 2012 Austin race on the Formula One calendar. Until it is officially removed, we will continue to move in that direction.


Tavo Hellmund and Bernie Ecclestone, President & CEO of Formula One Management (Courtesy of Formula 1 United States)However, overnight F1's Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in The Independent (UK paper) as saying "The [new] contract we proposed to them is 10 years from 2013. We said we would wait for them."

Moments ago, Steve Sexton (President of Circuit of The Americas) issued the following statement:

"We have been excited for and working towards a 2012 USGP race and now understand that Mr. Ecclestone is interested in moving the Austin race to 2013. We know the U.S. market is important to the teams and their sponsors and 2013 certainly allows time for the Circuit of The Americas to be ready."

So, a loose interpretation of these comments suggests that COTA and Ecclestone are re-negotiating the terms of the F1US contract. There are obvious pros and cons for moving a 2012 race to 2013. The most obvious pro is that this allows more time to develop the infrastructure at Circuit of The Americas to its full capabilities to welcome F1, MotoGP and V8 Supercars all together in 2013. Despite having to wait, the most crushing con is that many American F1 fans are again in an emotional state of confusion and anger. Hopefully, as the dust settles from this Texas showdown, we will be able to quickly get back to our state of creativity and excitement.

There are a few events in Austin this weekend that were planned in order to commemorate the one year mark until our first F1 race. Some may think it's a waste of time to continue with our plans. I completely disagree. Instead of focusing on a one year countdown, it is time to celebrate our accomplishments for the past 18 months!

Hundreds of Austinites have banded together to create a vibrant community for a race that isn’t even here yet. For a circuit that is about 40% complete. The fans, supporters and community connectors are due credit for creating worldwide excitement for Austin, Texas 2012. The fans have opened their arms to visitors who have travelled to Austin since May 25, 2010 to scout out what we're all about: to plan their F1 events and business dealings; to get the lay of the land while listening to live music on 6th Street; to "ride the bull" at Rebel's Honky Tonk in the Warehouse district; to watch an F1 race with fans at Cool River Cafe or downtown with us at Six Lounge. Every visitor that we have met with has shared the same reaction: Austin is an amazing town with people that make it extraordinary. The people are extraordinary because they love their city and they love the idea of sharing what it has to offer with friends and visitors.

Hangar Lounge - 318 Colorado Street

This weekend is about celebrating what we’ve accomplished as a community while continuing to look forward to the future of racing in Austin. Here are two events:

Friday, November 18, 8:00PM – 12:00AM
Hangar Lounge, 318 Colorado Street, Austin, Texas
Free admission and Red Bull drink specials
More info on our Facebook event link by clicking here.

Saturday, November 19, 5:00PM – 11:30PM
The Hitchin’ Post, 12100 FM 969, Austin TX
More details on Wild Bubba's Facebook event page by clicking here.

See you this weekend!


How do you summarize an amazing four days in a foreign country where you were welcomed by friendly and fun people from around the world and created lifelong memories and friendships? How do you capture the energy and enthusiasm shared with you from people around the world that proclaim their interest and promise in visiting your hometown in the near future? How do you retell the experience of hearing, smelling, seeing and, most importantly, feeling the rush of a Formula One race car only feet (or meters) away in a legendary city at one of the most historic races of recent history?

Perhaps actions do speak louder than words:

Austin, MAKE IT HAPPEN! from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.


For the F1 newbies, you may be asking yourself: Who is this man and why is he standing on a chair commanding the attention and uproar of a crowded pub, nonetheless talking about the Austin City Council?

Well, what had happened was…Will Buxton sent out a tweet inviting his Twitter followers to meet for drinks in Montreal the night before the Canadian Grand Prix. His pals Karun Chandhok and Charlie Whiting* were in attendance, in addition to many other F1 VIPs.

Will's F1 Drinks Tweet

Will is a gregarious and well-respected F1 pit reporter for SPEED TV Channel in the US. We met Will and he immediately shared his informed concern on recent and upcoming Austin City Council agenda items, although he admits he’s not so sure what happens at American city council meetings (and, who does?).

After meeting Will and mingling with F1 fans from around the world (including a lovely and lively bunch from Vancouver who would have come back to Austin with us if we had enough room in our suitcases :), we were moved, yet not terribly surprised at the support everyone shared for making the Austin Grand Prix happen next year.

The pub was jam-packed with outgoing people from around the world. Their common thread: F1 racing. When Kevin and I booked our Montreal tickets six months ago, we saw the importance and opportunity in experiencing a Formula One race close to home and returning to Austin with stories to share. We are *still* mulling over the 5,000 pictures and hours of video shot.

The more and more people Kevin and I met the more inspiring stories we heard and were able to capture. At one point, I went up to Kevin and told him to have his camera ready, just like at April’s Press Conference with Bob Varsha. I asked Will if he would garner the support of the entire pub so we could send a special message back to Austin and the City Council. We shared the plan with F1 fans throughout the pub, and then Will jumped up on a chair and shared his support, which is felt by F1 and racing fans from around the world:





So what is Will talking about? You thought everything was approved since the facility construction is progressing nicely? Even the famed Sutton Images had GREAT progress to report from their visit last week.

There has been a lot happening in Austin lately surrounding the Circuit of the Americas (“COTA”) facility and the subsequent Formula One races, which are scheduled to start on June 17, 2012. The most pressing issue is the upcoming Austin City Council meeting to be held this Thursday, June 23. At this meeting, the City Council will be asked to:

1. Approve a resolution authorizing the City Manager to complete the agreement with the Texas Comptroller and proceed with the Major Events Trust Fund (“METF”) establishment with Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix; and

2. Approve a resolution authorizing the newly created Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee (the “LOC”) to act on the City’s behalf and authorizing #1 above.

Let us first say we recognize how confusing and difficult the Austin City Council and Texas Major Events Trust Fund issues are to navigate. The Austin Grand Prix is made up of Formula One fans, but first and foremost, we are proud and loud fans of the great city of Austin, Texas. We support responsible and sustainable growth and expect all actions surrounding Formula One United States Grand Prix and the Circuit of the Americas to be in the best interests of the city of Austin and its bar none citizens.

That being said, we were pleasantly surprised to read about last week’s revelation that Full Throttle Productions, LP (Tavo Hellmund’s entity promoting the race and the major backer) has decided to front the $4M annual city funds required to access the State of Texas’s METF. This means Austin taxpayer support will be eliminated and COTA would still have access to the METF funds which are generated by tax dollars and specifically set aside for major sporting events. (Note: the METF funds CANNOT be reassigned for other state budget issues, such as education, despite knee-jerk statements made by F1 opponents).**

With your active participation last year, we were able to share your support for F1 with the Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioner’s Office and we are asking for your loud voices to be heard again. Now we need your help to follow through on Will’s message to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

1. Share Will’s video with your friends and get people to post comments saying “AUSTIN - MAKE IT HAPPEN!” on the Vimeo video page, at the end of this page, on our Facebook page or send a Tweet to @AustinGrandPrix. Anywhere and everywhere!

2. We have found at least three different electronic petitions started by Austin F1 fan groups that could really use your support. Please take the time to sign each one of them and pass them on to your friends as well. You do not need to live in Austin or even Texas to sign these petitions!

Petition 1

Petition 2

Petition 3

3. As with all of our Calls to Action over the past year, your *personalized* and *individual* messages to Austin City Council members go a long way. I have spoken to Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and he told me he READS EVERY EMAIL! Not his assistant; not someone on his staff; but him personally. I don’t know about you but I have a hard enough time keeping up on email. He has received over 2,000 emails regarding the upcoming June 23 meeting. Can we double that? (Sorry Mike! ;)

The Austin City Council consists of the following respectable individuals:

We suggest you make the subject of your message: “AUSTIN – MAKE IT HAPPEN!” and include a personal message regarding your feelings about F1 in Austin 2012.

4. Attend the City Council meeting this Thursday by following the instructions posted on this page:  Citizen Participation. As mentioned earlier, the Austin City Council will meet at 10:00AM CST this Thursday, June 23 at the Office of the City Clerk, City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street, Suite 1120, Austin, Texas 78701.

5. If you cannot attend this week’s Council meeting, you can watch it live online via the City of Austin’s Channel 6.  Although please be patient, as we had so many viewers tune in once that we crashed the live webcast – whoopsie!

Thank you for seeing this article through to the very end. As with all great things, nothing is simple. We look forward to your support and seeing you in Austin in 2012 – MAKE IT HAPPEN!


*The real Charlie Whiting on Twitter, however the Fake Charlie Whiting IRL (legally).

**This is our very brief summary of the METF issues. Luckily, our friends at the Austin American-Statesman, Austin Business Journal and Austin Chronicle have spent many hours hashing it out (just click on their hyperlinked names).


F1US Names President And Expands Upon Leadership Team

We just received this press release from F1US:

Sexton Named President of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix (TM) and Center
Owners Tap Experience of Former Churchill Downs Executive

AUSTIN, Texas - February 21, 2011 - Steve Sexton, former President and CEO of Churchill Downs Entertainment and former President of Churchill Downs, has joined the Formula 1 United States management team as President. Sexton's appointment strengthens an executive team engaged in creating the country's finest international motorsports and entertainment center.

"Steve brings more than 25 years of major sports and entertainment management experience to our project. He understands our aspirations as an owners group and we have every confidence he will be a tremendous asset to our operation going forward," said Tavo Hellmund, founding partner and Chairman of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix(TM).

Sexton assumed the role of President of Churchill Downs Entertainment in 2009 after serving as President of Churchill Downs racetrack. He was appointed Executive Vice President of Racing Operations for Churchill Downs Inc. in 2002 and delivered six consecutive years of growth for the venue, posting the second, third and fourth highest attendance records for the Kentucky Derby. Sexton is also a veteran of planning and construction of large-scale facilities. In 2004-2005, he led the team that completed a $121 million Churchill Downs grandstand construction, establishing 80 luxury suites and seven exclusive hospitality areas. In addition, he was a key member of the team that constructed and operated Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, located in Grand Prairie, Texas, a $96 million project that opened in 1997.

"Bruce Knox provides strong leadership for the Formula 1 United States project and will continue in his executive role. Steve Sexton complements the team and will build upon their success," stated Red McCombs, founding partner of the Formula 1 United States project. "He is the right man for the job."

"We are creating a world-class business and entertainment destination," said Bobby Epstein, a founding partner in the Formula 1 project. "Steve's experience in managing premier events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup positions us to deliver an experience that will become known around the world. I know all of us are excited to be working with him on this monumental project."

This is Sexton's fifth time leading a major sports entertainment destination. Along with his time at Churchill Downs, he served as President of Arlington Park where he led the first of two Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship events for the publicly-traded Churchill Downs, Incorporated. Prior positions include Vice President and General Manager at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas; General Manager of Thistledown in Cleveland; and Assistant General Manager at Ladbroke's Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco.

"This project represents a unique opportunity for the City of Austin and the State of Texas to be the focal point for a world-wide audience," stated Sexton. "I am very pleased to join the talented team the owners have assembled and am excited to be a part of building a showcase that attracts diverse visitors from around the world and opens new education, innovation and research opportunities to benefit the global community."

Sexton began work with the Formula 1 United States team on Friday, February 18, 2011.

TEDxAustin: Tavo Hellmund Speaks in Austin

Image courtesy of TEDxAustinTavo Hellmund spoke this afternoon in Austin at a satellite event of TED, known as TEDxAustin.  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is a series of global conferences designed to culminate idea-sharing. In his speech, Tavo highlighted several things, not only some interesting things about F1 in Austin, but also his mantra as a person.

He began in a very humble manner, acknowledging the other speakers invited to talk at the event, but Tavo quickly dove into explaining his perspective on the future of Austin and his desire to engage the community.  His vision for the new racing facilities will effect the lives of so many people and in order to succeed, the facility needs to be used year round, capitalizing on the technological and educational potential which Austin culminates.  We think that his message was well received and important to understanding the long term success of his goals.

He highlighted that, not only will this facility bring 300,000 people to the city, create jobs, and attract 500 million viewers in 180 countries around the world, but these are just the F1 weekend numbers and just a the tip of the iceberg of the potential he sees in the overall plan.

Some of the key points Tavo mentioned about the F1 facility itself:

Algae research, like what UT Biology Department conducts.There will be a large focus on the Educational component of the track.  Education has always been a big part of his life, and since the tragic loss of a very good friend of his, Tavo launched his Safe & Sober® campaign to target educational outreach in order to help spread the message of driving safety.

Lance Armstrong in UT's Human Performance Lab, Image Courtesy of UTResearch will be a huge part of this facility and Tavo higlighted two major component of this research: an engineering facility focused on alternative energy research (hopefully partnering with UT Biology Department's research in Algae), as well as research labs in human performance, probably also in close relationship with UT's Human Performance Lab.

Overall, the talk allowed Tavo to really set the stage for the future of not only Formula 1, but the long term success of the region to help ensure true sustainability through a year round calendar at this exciting new facility.

 Here are some of Tavo's unofficial quotes that Kerri tweeted during the speech:  

     "It's going to be an awesome track!"

     "We're going to have the closest thing to a traditional grand prix track, like the ones 30 years ago, here in Austin."

     "I'm hoping this project, which is getting all the attention, gives Austin more than the economic impact."

     "Recognize the power within you and realize how to develop and use it."

     "What drives you? Fear of failure."

     "It's not about how fast a car can go, it's about how fast that PERSON in the car can go."

Tavo Hellmund speaking at TEDxAustin on February 22, 2011. Image copyright The Austin Grand Prix.

     "F1 is the most cutting edge of technology-the advancements in your car were developed in last 35 years from F1."

     "Everyone knows about the splurges of success over central TX" (...becase of relocation of huge companies to Austin).

     "If you build it they will come...will that work?"

     "Kids today are more impressed with the delivery of the message, more by the method; than with the message itself." 

      "We're going to design something to use the other 362 days of the year - including an educational component; we're working with university and elementary school systems..." 

       "What happens after the [F1] weekend? Of course we're going to do other events outside one weekend." 

It was exciting to see Tavo on stage with many other creative minds. It was also great to hear him interact with and update the Austin community on this large and exciting project. We hope this is the beginning of many more public discussions.