Austin promoter Tavo Hellmund led a delegation representing the 2012 US GP project at Silverstone last weekend.
Texas state comptroller Susan Combs was part of the group, which spent a lot of time based at Bernie Ecclestone’s motorhome and met several key F1 players. The race was also Hellmund’s first public appearance since he became a promoter.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” he told SPEED.com. “People are looking forward to coming to Austin, and it’s been great. I was going to try to go to Montreal but had a scheduling conflict.
“I needed to bring some of my partners over, and it just coincided that the comptroller was going to make a visit to a Grand Prix as well just to see the size and the scope and everything, so the timing was perfect.
“There’s about 12 people here. Two or three of them are partners of mine. We’ve got some of our legal team, and a couple of our communications people. I needed for them to get to know the FOM system, see how things run are run at a Grand Prix.”
Hellmund insists that plans are moving ahead: “We’re almost done with the design stuff. We’ve changed a few things based on the site, and the biggest thing is trying to finish the proper plan for the FIA Circuit Commission. I believe that’s in September. The
Tilke people have been in Austin pretty much non-stop and have met with our architects and our contractors. We’re hammer down.”
Combs has committed the state to a $25 million yearly payment from the Texas Special Events Fund. That is designed to cover expenses related to major events, and is believed to represent the annual fee paid to host the race. The state is not involved in the actual development of the circuit. Local media has indicated that not all taxpayers will be supportive, but Combs downplayed such suggestions.
US GP promoter Tavo Hellmund (Pictured) calls in to discuss the return of Formula One to the United States with SPEED's Bob Varsha. (Image: SPEED)
“The legislation is already passed; it’s a done deal,” she said. “I think they’re going to be very excited.”
Combs said she enjoyed her first experience of the F1 scene: “It’s very, very exciting. It has lots of technology, which I found particularly interesting, and it’s a real crowd pleaser, a real show. We’re now more excited. With the incredible impact that this has on England, we hope to have a similar impact on the United States.
“It’s going to put Texas on the international and global map, it’s going to put Austin on the international and global map and it will brand Texas as the home of cars.”
Adam Cooper notched up his 25th season as a racing journalist in 2009. Born in London, England, he saw his first F1 race at age 10 in 1976. He began freelancing for Autosport magazine in 1985 and was on the fulltime staff from 1987-92. He then went freelance again, initially spending two years in Japan before following the 1994 Champcar series from a base in Indianapolis. He has not missed a Grand Prix since Suzuka ‘94, a run that has extended to Abu Dhabi ’09. Adam has written books about Eddie Irvine, Piers Courage and Michael Schumacher and hosts a race preview show on Sirius XM. He has written about F1 for SPEEDtv.com since 2005. Check out Adam's Blog or follow him on Twitter