Formula One racing is coming back to the United States in 2012 with a long-term deal to race in Austin on a track built specifically for the event.
Formula One, city and Texas state officials announced the agreement on Tuesday, saying Austin would host the U.S. Grand Prix until 2021.
The race was dropped after an eight-year run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000-2007 with mixed results. The most notable blemish occurred in 2005 when 14 of 20 drivers pulled off the track just before the race started as a protest over concerns about tire safety.
Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone said the race in the Texas capital would mark the first time a course would be built specifically for an F1 race in the United States.
Before its run in Indianapolis, Formula One had been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix on city street circuits. The race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was run on a road course built inside the oval track.
Tavo Hellmund, managing partner of race promoter Full Throttle Productions, said the Austin track and grandstand would be built “within 10 miles” of the Austin airport. Hellmund said the track will be at least 3 miles long. He declined to release further details, including the size of the grandstand and total cost.
Austin city officials and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs helped promoters pitch the location. Hellmund said the facility would be privately financed and will not use public money.
“The visibility and prestige of this event will spotlight our state on an international stage,” Combs said in a statement.
Austin, with a metro area population of about 1.7 million, is a three-hour drive or less from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Hellmund said Austin had to compete with interest for the race “from New York to Miami.”
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is proud of having been host to the United States Grand Prix from 2000 to 2007, and we were pleased to have some of the largest Formula One crowds in the world,” speedway vice president for communications Fred Nation said in a statement.
“Since 2007, we have been asked many times about having Formula One return, and our answer has been the same each time — if the business deal is right, they are welcome back. If such a deal is in place in Austin, we wish both the city and Formula One success for a race in the United States.”
Formula One has been hot and cold on the desire to even hold a race in the United States.
In 2007, Ecclestone made fans angry when he said Formula One didn’t need an American race, even though the U.S. Grand Prix consistently drew one of the biggest crowds on the circuit, attracting about 125,000 fans each year.
Keywords: Formula One