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Plan for Formula One racing in Austin, Texas, appears in jeopardy

November 15, 2011 |  3:10 pm

Plans for a new Formula One race next year on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, appear to be in trouble Tuesday.

Construction had started on a $300-million complex called Circuit of the Americas to hold the United States Grand Prix on Nov. 18, 2012.

BernieIt would have marked the international racing series' return to the U.S. market after a five-year absence. There also were plans for the track to host a MotoGP motorcycle race.

But the group building the track said Tuesday that it suspended construction because a contract assuring that the race would be held there had not been signed. A statement issued by the group did not say who or what was causing the problem.

"We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern," Bobby Epstein, a founding partner of the venue, said in a statement.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that the problem was a contract dispute between the race's promoter, which has the F1 contract, and the group building Circuit of the Americas.

At Formula One's race last weekend in Abu Dhabi, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone likewise reportedly said "there are two parties, one is building a track, the other has the contract and they've forgotten to talk to each other."

After the Austin race was proposed, New Jersey officials last month announced plans for their own Formula One race on streets along the Hudson River, with Manhattan as a backdrop, in June 2013.

That worries state officials in Texas. The state had committed to spending up to $25 million over 10 years to cover F1's annual $25-million sanctioning fee to help draw the race to Austin, according to published reports.

But Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said Tuesday that the state now would not pay any funds before the first Austin race.

"The recent announcement of an annual Formula One race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race," she said.

— Jim Peltz

Photo: Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone last month at the Buddh International Circuit in India. Credit: Franck Robichon / EPA    

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