29 May 2010
Indianapolis 'surprised' by choice of Austin
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has said that it would be willing to talk to Bernie Ecclestone about future USGP plans - despite Austin having signed a ten-year deal to host the race.
Despite having been unable to thrash out a deal that would have seen Formula One return to the Brickyard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway representatives have said that they cannot understand the decision to take the USGP to Texas.
Earlier this week, Bernie Ecclestone and promoter Full Throttle Productions announced a ten-year deal to return F1 to the United States at a purpose-built facility on the outskirts of state capital Austin, but the move - which also trumped Ecclestone's apparent desire to take grand prix racing to the New York area - has provoked a reaction at IMS, which hosted the race between 2002-07.
"It's not a surprise that F1 is returning to the United States because Mr Ecclestone made it clear [that it was in] the interest [of the] teams sponsors and manufacturers to be back in the world's largest market," IMS spokesman Fred Nation told Reuters as the famed US circuit geared up for the IndyCar Series' Indianapolis 500, "However, that F1 expressed any interest Austin was a surprise, especially to us."
Although Tony George's exit from the board at Indianapolis removed the biggest apparent block in discussions between the Speedway and Ecclestone, the two parties were unable to find enough common ground to return the USGP to the Brickyard. Ecclestone then suggested that the race was headed to NYC, even claiming as recently as the Chinese GP that there were three venues under consideration. However, despite supporting hints coming from representatives of both Liberty Park and Monticello Motor Club, the grand prix headed south instead, with Hermann Tilke set to design an all-new circuit ahead of a planned 2012 debut.
While Mario Andretti welcomed the Austin announcement - claiming that 'it was a travesty that [the US] did not have a grand prix' and that 'the strength of the [US] fan base is totally underestimated' - Nation insisted that the decision to pick the Texan state capital was an odd one.
"Austin is not particularly known as an auto racing market," he pointed out, "Certainly, Indianapolis is the right place for F1 in the United Sates and, if and when they express an interest here again, which could happen, we're ready to talk if we can find a business arrangement that makes sense for both parties. That has been difficult in the past, [but] we're proud that we had among the largest crowds in F1 - then and now."
Despite rumours that the deal with Austin has been announced as a means of improving F1's terms for taking a race to Monticello Motor Club - which had been seen as the favourite to land the USGP as it already has most of the necessary infrastructure in place - Ecclestone insists that he is confident that the Texans can pull off the mountainous task of building an all-new facility in less than two years.
"We have an agreement and we have a lot of support from the government there and the governor himself, so it's looking good," Ecclestone told BBC Radio 5 Live, referring to a rumoured $25m a year from the Texas Major Events Trust Fund.
"I've known [Tavo Hellmund] for an awfully long time, so I know I can trust the people. They're prepared to build the kind of circuit we want, [and] they are doing exactly what we're asking. It's a difficult market to break into but wherever we've raced in the past we've had capacity crowds. I've no fears at all."
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