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Austin newspaper raises questions about US GP promoter contract

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Austin newspaper raises questions about US GP promoter contract
Oct 2, 2011, 12:22 PM

There was an article in the Austin Statesman on Friday which caught the eye and suggests that there are some changes imminent in the management and...

There was an article in the Austin Statesman on Friday which caught the eye and suggests that there are some changes imminent in the management and promotion of the US Grand Prix at Austin, which is due to have its inaugural event in 13 months from now.

The paper has seen a letter sent by the Texas state comptroller Susan Combs to F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone which deals with a transfer of ownership rights to the US Grand Prix in the promoter contract.

It appears that Tavo Hellmund, who struck the deal with Ecclestone for the US GP to be hosted in Austin, has been asking Combs whether the state subsidies for the project, some $250 million of State money pledged over 10 years - will still be forthcoming if the promoter was changed. Combs spells out in her letter to Ecclestone that the circuit will indeed still be eligible for the money.

According to the Statesman, the letter makes it clear that it is Hellmund personally to whom Ecclestone bestowed the rights, not the major investors in the Austin track project, known as "Circuit of the Americas". These investors include billionaire entertainment impressario Red McCombs. That now seems to be about to change, although Combs does not say why nor what the terms might be - and nor does the newspaper. It does however note a "slowdown" in building work at the site, possibly linked to the change.

Combs writes, "Should the proposed assignment be consummated, the State of Texas, through this agency, looks forward to working with the Circuit of the Americas to bring the Formula One United States Grand Prix to Texas in 2012."

As for why the need to change promoter at this stage, the Statesman refers back to an interview with Hellmund from a few weeks ago,

"Hellmund is a founding partner of Circuit of the Americas, yet a little more than two weeks ago told the American-Statesman he had begun doing consulting work for groups hoping to attract a Formula One race to Mexico, Argentina and South Africa," the article says. "At that time he mentioned that he was basically a race promoter and that his work in Austin was almost done. He then quickly added: 'The U.S. Grand Prix is the most important thing. … The next thing is to promote the U.S. Grand Prix.' "
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