Viewing entries tagged
Kevin Schwantz

The Revival of the USGP

Circuit of The Americas on the eve of the USGP

All eyes are on Austin this morning, as the world awaits the start of the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. Since inception, the concept of having Formula 1 back in the U.S. has sparked global conversation about the future of the sport in America. Today, American motorsport will be redefined as the highest class of racing takes to the track for the first F1 Grand Prix in the U.S. since 2007.

Two-Wheel Update

World Superbike at Miller Motorsports Park

Two important pieces of information were released over the weekend concerning two-wheeled racing.  First, World Superbike (SBK) is moving to Laguna Seca in 2013, and second, MotoGP's 2013 calendar was released with two unconfirmed races in April, sans Austin.

// Superbike

Since visiting Miller Motorsports Park in May of this year, the idea of SBK coming to Circuit of The Americas has been in the back of my mind. Speaking with several SBK officials that weekend, the option to move to Austin was well received but no one would confirm whether talks were underway. SBK seemed happy with their stint at Miller but it was clear the new facility couldn't overcome the lackluster crowds and minimal exposure associated with the event.

In line with the overall sentiment from these discussions, this past Friday a new three year contract to host the United States round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was announced. Laguna Seca has replaced Miller Motorsports Park starting next year, opting to return to the Californian track where MotoGP also runs.

// MotoGP

Since MotoGP was put in limbo earlier this year, a serious void was created by the lack of a two-wheeled series at COTA. Frustrating many season ticket holders who expected MotoGP to be a foundation of the facility's program, the issues between Tavo Hellmund and Circuit of The Americas bled over to the MotoGP side of things, surprising many who hoped the series would be free of the F1 drama.

Waiting patiently for things to be resolved, complications were revealed when former MotoGP Champion Kevin Schwantz announced a lawsuit against COTA, claiming they went around him to secure an alternate deal with MotoGP owner Dorna and push him out.  While this issue remains to be resolved, motorcycle governing body FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) released a provisional calendar with two races in April yet to be confirmed. 

Two weeks following the season opener in Qatar, back-to-back races on the 14th and 21st of April are unconfirmed and the season expands from 18 races in 2012 to 19 races for 2013. The fourth event on the calendar is Spain, and with only Portugal, Spain's close neighbor, missing from the 2012 calendar, it's very possible what has yet to be confirmed is how the logistics between Austin and Portugal will take place in just one week between the two events.

Given the emergence of Schwantz's case against COTA, one could argue that there's little reason to pursue legal action unless a deal between Dorna and COTA is underway. The silver-lining is that we may soon have the top two-wheeled series here in Austin, but we'll continue to wait until official word is out later this year.

Austin Pit Stop - April 06, 2012

// Bahrain

Political tensions surrounding the Bahrain GP are starting to heat up as protests of F1 fall under the spotlight. Though Formula 1 claims all is well and the series will race in Bahrain, citizen journalism via social outlets is revealing a different side to the story. As with last year's situation in Bahrain where a 'day of rage' was declared should an F1 race be staged, we share the opinion of Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber who tweeted the following during last year's discussions about Bahrain:

When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport. Let's hope the right decision is made...

// Lotus

There are some shakeups with Lotus F1 team, as team owner Genii Capital has decided to cancel their sponsorship agreement. The UK Telegraph reports, and Joe Saward adds his comments. For those visual learners, however, here's a nifty flow chart that attemps to, ahem, clarify.

 A Lotus flow chart, designed by Joe Taylor (@DCLXIV on Twitter)

// Argentina

Motorsport is reporting that the Argentinean government will sign a three-year F1 contract next month, commencing in 2013 and replacing Korea. More here.

// Rubens in the Media

Peter Windsor welcomed Rubens Barrichello back to his webcast, "The Flying Lap." Rubens just completed his second race in the IndyCar Series, but hasn't completely ruled out a return to F1.


Seems like more and more people are posting aerial photos on their ascent into/descent out of Austin! Here's one from a covert Jet Blue pilot.

COTA also took their updates to the air and posted new aerial photos with a quick construction update, here.

According to the Austin Business Journal, Paul Mitchell founder Jean Paul DeJoria will be in Austin to celebrate the "topping off" ceremony for the structural completion of the Paddock Building at COTA. The ceremony is set to be held Thursday, April 12th, just one year since the project vision was officially unveiled.

COTA is seeking financial assistance from Travis County on improving pertinent roads leading to November race.

COTA is now accepting applications for volunteer marshal opportunities for the November F1 race. Link here.

// MotoGP

The first race of the MotoGP season is this Sunday in Qatar.  Free practice was completed earlier today with the three American riders, Hayden, Spies, and Edwards finishing 7th, 11th, and 14th in the pre-qualifying standings. More here.

MotoGP Legend Kevin Schwantz joined Dave Despain on SPEED TV's Wind Tunnel! Best wishes to Kevin as he recovers from a broken sternum - ouch!! You can wish him well on his official Facebook page.

 // Other News

RIP Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (1935-2012) - designer of the Porsche 911

An Epic Day in Austin, Texas

260 days. That is how long curious Austinites, die-hard F1 fans and everyone in between had to wait since the first F1 USGP Press Conference in July 2010 and this week's coming out party in Austin, Texas. In Tavo's defense, to say they have been busy would be an understatement.

We arrived at the Palmer Events Center on a typical April afternoon in Austin: 80' F (27' C), sunny with a few clouds in the sky, and so many people frolicking about in the neighboring Zilker Park, you begin to wonder if anyone works a typical 9-5 job in this town. As evidenced throughout Austin's cohesive, collaborative, laid-back yet get-down-to-business vibe, we passed by the sunny fun-loving people in the park and walked into the Palmer Events Center, where we were transported to a high tech press conference with a platform for innovation and excitement, and some cool backdrops. The stage was bordered with two giant screens looping some new and some familiar snapshots of Austin; the Williams F1 car served as a focal point and photo op; and about 100 media and invited parties began to fill the room.

We mingled, ran into our friend USF2000 Driver Rodrigo Sanchez, met a few new folks and took our seats behind the "Reserved Row," not knowing who would join us, but impressed when we were joined by Del Valle School Board President Richard Vasquez, Austin City Manager Marc Off, Texas Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Texas Sen. Kirk Watson, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell (hard to see from this angle) and Council member Mike Martinez.

SPEED TV's iconic Bob Varsha welcomed everyone and noted that he had visited the construction site and was "impressed with what was being accomplished at the track site." Before introducing the founding team on stage, Red McCombs, Tavo Hellmund and Bobby Epstein, he also shared his newfound love for the city of Austin, and shared our sentiments that it is an active and entertaining town supported by the welcoming and fun-loving people of Austin.

You may recall that McCombs and Epstein were announced as the major financial backers at July's press conference and Tavo is the ring leader in this entire project. McCombs quickly took over and before announcing first order of business, the naming of the track, he reminded people of the scale and magnitude of this project, equating it to "a SuperBowl every year" for the city of Austin. There has been so much buzz around this press conference in the past week, including speculation about what was going to be announced, that we were confident a title sponsor would be named, thereby revealing something of the sort: "The AT&T Williams Momentum Park." That was my calculated guess because AT&T is headquarted in Texas and has strong business and historical ties to central Texas, that Williams F1 car keeps popping up, and Momentum Park was a name that was referenced via some online research.

Alas, McCombs, Epstein and Tavo revealed the track as "Circuit of the Americas - Home of the World Championships, United States," or "COTA" for short. I've heard some mixed reviews of the name, but the thought behind Circuit of the Americas was to tie in the United States with Canada, South and Latin America, where I think F1 fans might rival US F1 fans in number. I'm unable to embed the video here, but SPEED TV just posted a great 8 minute+ video of the highlights of the press conference. If the full press conference is published, we will share that video with you in the future. For now, you can watch the SPEED TV video of this F1 USGP April Press Conference by clicking here.

McCombs then invited Steve Sexton, F1US and now COTA President, to the stage and Steve also shared Varsha's sentiments of the warm welcome he has received as a new Austin resident. Then the discussion transitioned from the "Who" to the "What and Where." This is not just a race track, folks. The Circuit of the Americas is a destination: a high-end, multi-purpose development that has grown from 970 acres to 1,100 planned acres. Tavo began to paint a clearer picture of what we can expect at the Citcuit of the Americas:

  • 40,000 square foot, 3-story tall conference center bordering the 300 yard pit area
  • 14 executive suites, each 3,600 square feet with elevators, kitchens, latest A/V gear, high-speed connections and capacity for 75 people each (to be used by teams and sponsors on race weekends for meetings and hospitality)
  • Main grandstand includes luxury suites for business entertaining and capacity of about 750, including commercial kitchen and cafe
  • Media and conference center - business conferences, seminars and receptions, and converting to international media center
  • 500-person banquet hall (private or corporate dinners and nonprofit fundraising galas)
  • 5,400 square foot Medical Building with year-round use as a training facility (professionals and students) and converting to trauma care center for driver-athletes
  • Live music entertainment venue during race and non-race weekends, including indoor and outdoor space, and spanning the equivilent of 3 football fields wide with a capacity of 35,000
  • 22-story Observation Deck providing breath-taking and memorable views of the destination set amidst the gorgeous Texas Hill Country
  • Entertainment and festival venue with capacity of 35,000

This article, "Circuit of the Americas Partners with Texas Schools," is a great overview of the educational institutions that have jumped on board with COTA and their specific roles "linking classroom learning to practical application work." We are really hoping to hear that Austin's own University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University-San Marcos are also jumping on board!

Tavo continued to highlight the business and economic impact of the facility not only during this fast-paced construction phase that we are currently in, but also the sustained opportunities for local and global companies for the duration of the 10-year contract with Formula One Management and F1 racing:

  • Agreement with Austin Energy to build a new energy sub-station in Del Valle
  • Research and development opportunities almost solidified with two large auto manufacturers
  • Potentially 1300-employees tied to the multi-purpose facility
  • Construction expenditures alone of over $400MM, with a focus to keep 80% or more of that in the pockets of local Texan businesses
  • In addition to plans for on-site retail, the COTA team is in talks to bring a major hotel developer to the development
  • In the course of a single F1 race weekend (which, as we know, is only 3-5 nights out of the facility's 365 days of planned business), you can expect 300,000 guests to spend 3-5 nights in the Austin and surrounding Central Texas areas and spending an average of $1400-1600

Tavo then shifted the focus back to the "Who and What" by introducing two icons in an equally exciting motorsport field: 1993 World GP Motorcycle Champion Kevin Schwantz and 2010 MotoGP "Rookie of the Year" Ben Spies. Schwantz made the highly-anticipated announcement of the addition of MotoGP motorcycle racing to the circuit's lineup. MotoGP is to the world of motorcycle racing what Formula One is to the world of automotive racing: they are both the cream of the crop in their respective fields; partnering the highest advancements in technology and innovation to deliver non-stop excitement to their large international audiences. The introduction of MotoGP's partnership with The Circuit of The Americas facility was met with energetic support from the crowd as Schwantz also reported a 10-year agreement was met to bring MotoGP to Texas from 2013-2022.

While I was live-tweeting snippits of the press conference via our Twitter feed, I heard Schwantz ask Spies "How excited are you to be able to come and race in Austin in 2013?" His response was "Very!" and I think you can expect to see an expansion of our COME AND RACE IT© product line to show our support of MotoGP's introduction to the Texas lineup.

As the press conference wrapped up and we were directed to make our way to the shuttles leaving for the construction tour of the facility, we snagged two great interviews with Bob Varsha of SPEED TV and Christian Epp of Tilke Engineering. You can enjoy them on our dedicated Press Conference page or via our Vimeo Channel.

For all high-def photos and official facility renderings, check out our Gallery.

Next up from us: our recap of the site tour, and hopefully next up from COTA: the "When" and more announcements on the "Who" regarding this decelopment of epic, Texas-sized proporstions.

In the meantime, tell us what you thought of the Press Conference and enjoy the first-ever video of the drive up Turn 1 at The Circuit of The Americas!

On Location at the Circuit Of The Americas from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.




USGP Press Conference Recap...via Twitter

While Kevin was at ground zero last week reporting on the Press Conference in Austin, I was watching along with the Austin-American Statesman’s live feed on Ustream.  A great feature of using Twitter is that a viewer can watch a webinar, Ustream, or live web chat and interact with other viewers by using a hashtag.  A hashtag is simply this sign # followed by a term.  Hashtags allow users to search for tweets that have a common topic.  For example, this past week I watched Lois Martin’s #F1chat (it’s every Monday if you are interested in watching or chiming in on Twitter, although this week it got hit by a spammer).  During the press conference, lots of people were tweeting quotes from Tavo and Red using hashtags such as #F1 or #USGP

Here are my tweets from that hour+ surrounding the press conference.  I started out complaining to the Statesman because we couldn't hear a thing! And it worked; they listened to our disgruntled tweets and fixed the audio.  Then I tweeted quotes from Tavo and Red as they spoke (which is typical of tweeters attending a live conference, so they can share the info with those not in attendance).  Disregard the misspellings, I was trying to get our tweets out ASAP:

  • TAVO! TAVO! (#acl live at ) 10:03 AM Jul 27th via Ustream
  • sound is very low - hard to hear (#acl live at ) 10:08 AM Jul 27th via Ustream
  • "there's been speculation that there was foreign money involved..." but tavo worked tokeep it local #USGP #Formula1 10:09 AM Jul 27th via HootSuite
  • Red McCombs involved, interesting #USGP #FOrmula1 10:10 AM Jul 27th via HootSuite
  • "Judge a man by the success of his relationships with his family & friends" not his wallet - Tavo #Formula1 #USGP 10:11 AM Jul 27th via HootSuite
  • TURN IT UP ALREADY (#acl live at ) 10:12 AM Jul 27th via Ustream
  • THANK YOU! My ear is next to my speaker! @statesmanf1 turn it up please! RT @liamthenry: @austingrandprix God damn this is stupidly quiet! Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:16:39 AM via HootSuite
  • can anyone of the 808 viewers hear this? bc a lot of us can't #formula1 (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:17:25 AM via Ustream
  • much better - thanks! #formula1 (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:19:10 AM via Ustream
  • Red McCombs thanks Susan Comptroller for her work in bringing #formula1 to Austin, you can follow her here Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:21:13 AM via HootSuite
  • Del Valle! #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:21:47 AM via HootSuite
  • More about McCombs Partners: #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:22:19 AM via HootSuite
  • @StatesmanF1 It's much better, thanks! :) cc @liamthenry @tojohn123 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:24:04 AM via HootSuite
  • Is this a #UT press conference or a #Formula1 Press Conference? #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:24:21 AM via HootSuite
  • @tojohn123 LOL still waiting for him to tie it all together Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:26:31 AM via HootSuite in reply to tojohn123
  • Texas has a reputation for getting things done - Red McCombs #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:27:06 AM via HootSuite
  • "We're more than a state capitol and a university - this is a vision for Austin" -Red McCombs #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:27:51 AM via HootSuite
  • If you're excited ab #Formula1 coming to Austin, show your support! (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:29:20 AM via Ustream
  • Tavo is doing a great job being patient while Red rambles #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:30:32 AM via HootSuite
  • The Official Formula 1 United States site: #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:31:35 AM via HootSuite
  • Thanks Red! We're excited to hear you're behind it #Formula1 #USGP (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:34:31 AM via Ustream
  • Official Formula1 United States Twitter: @f1unitedstates #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:35:24 AM via HootSuite
  • "Permanent facility" - Tavo's key point on success of #USGP #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:35:55 AM via HootSuite
  • Austin - perfect access to Canada, Mexico, South America _Tavo #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:36:46 AM via HootSuite
  • facility w/in 10 miles of airport, hotels, highways -Tavo #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:37:49 AM via HootSuite
  • Tavo talks ab Austin being sensitive to environmental concerns #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:38:47 AM via HootSuite
  • "This facility will be a world class multi-purpose facility" _tavo #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:39:56 AM via HootSuite
  • Tavo: "There will be a great connection...between the universities...a technology sector. something much more than US Grand Prix" #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:41:35 AM via HootSuite
  • Tavo: People will say "That's that incredible research & development center which also holds the Formula 1 Grand Prix" #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:42:26 AM via HootSuite
  • "This is more than just a race." _Tavo #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:43:12 AM via HootSuite
  • Yes, it's live Tavo! (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:43:47 AM via Ustream
  • Tavo just restated RT @austingrandprix: The Official Formula 1 United States site: #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:44:02 AM via HootSuite
  • 2 months ago our statement that we were ready to go WAS accurate -Tavo #Formula2 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:44:23 AM via HootSuite
  • Q&A about to start re Formula 1 returning to Austin Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:45:12 AM via HootSuite
  • "How do you move from being a Football fan to an F1 Fan?" LOL Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:45:57 AM via HootSuite
  • Competition is competition. Red parallels football with skill, speed to determine to win #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:47:13 AM via HootSuite
  • Tavo: It's the same. who finishes 2nd is the first loser. we didn't lose. we got the #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:48:26 AM via HootSuite
  • Tavo: access-Elroy Wandering Creek site, primary entrance off 812 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:49:16 AM via HootSuite
  • McCombs: what will the economic impact be for you? "Well i hope it will be immense." #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:50:08 AM via HootSuite
  • McCombs: What will the economic impact be for you? "Well I hope it will be immense" #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:50:31 AM via HootSuite
  • 1st contact: over 20 yrs ago; 2nd less than 1.5 yrs but more than a few months ago -Tavo Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:51:28 AM via HootSuite
  • We're bridging the gap vetween Austinites and #Formula1 fans worldwide Thank (#acl live at ) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:52:41 AM via Ustream
  • Thanks for the RT's and interacting with us today! More to come! #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:55:04 AM via HootSuite
  • RT @f1unitedstates: The official website of Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:59:09 AM via HootSuite
  • naturally! RT @beerandracing: LOL, Red McCombs ends @f1unitedstates #USGP announcement w/ 'Hook 'em Horns'! #F1 just got their first cowboy! Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:59:43 AM via HootSuite
  • RT @beerandracing: "Red also owns McCombs Energy, & as already reported, there's a push 2use new track 2help develop alt fuels." #USGP #F1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:02:31 AM via HootSuite
  • RT @StatesmanF1: Here's the story on Red McCombs joining the Austin #F1 project. #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:03:17 AM via HootSuite
  • OFFICIAL SITE MAP for #USGP #Formula1 Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:18:17 AM via HootSuite
  • On phone with Kevin, on location at AT&T Conference Center after #Formula1 #USGP press conf - MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS! Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:20:56 AM via HootSuite
  • Official #USGP #Formula1 Press Release (if you missed the press conf) Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:27:03 AM via HootSuite
  • Read more about Tavo & Red: #Formula1 #USGP Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:33:01 AM via HootSuite

One of my favorite tweets was from a follower who was at the gym and couldn't get off the elliptical machine because he was reading our tweets to follow the press conference:

@dimitrypatent: "In the gym, can't get off eliptical until I hear the loc of f1 track in austin. Thx 4 the live updates @austingrandprix"

Now that's technology for ya!

Here are videos (six total) of the press conference in its entirety, from KXAN's YouTube channel (watch out, sound starts immediately upon clicking any YouTube links):

What are your thoughts and concerns after watching the press conference?  Were you satisfied with the information surrounding the track location?  I was relieved to see the track location on a map and content to visit the official website, but felt like the only other substantial "news" was the announcement of McCombs Partners and Prophet Capital Management Ltd. as investors.  Another interesting element was the attendance, support and identification of MotoGP World Champion Kevin Schwantz as an investor as well.  Tavo coined the Austin track as "world-class multi-purpose facility" so I bet we will also see motocross coming to "Speedcity" (Red's nickname for the new facility).  I'm still anxious to see a track design from Tilke or a site development plan.  Assuming ground breaking really does occur in December, we're guessing we'll see more detailed track information in October.  Your thoughts?