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Bernie Ecclestone: Grand Prix of America investors ‘reneged’ on deal, report says

Prospects appear dimmer than ever for the New Jersey F1 race.

Bernie Ecclestone and Tavo Hellmund, Texas Grand Prix promoter
Tavo Hellmund, Former COTA Promotor
Tavo Hellmund, promoter of the United States Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel drives the Sochi Autodrom
Bernie Ecclestone and Tavo Hellmund, Texas Grand Prix promoter
Victory Junction-Orbit Racing press conference: Leo Hindery Jr.

If you’ve been waiting for tickets to go on sale for the Formula One event in New Jersey, the Grand Prix of America, it’s probably time to stand down. A report from Forbes, written by British F1 authority Christian Sylt, says that plans for the race were “dealt a blow” when multiple partners backed out on the $100 million deal.

The project was formally announced in late 2011, with the race planned for 2013 on a 3.2-mile track on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, with the Manhattan skyline just across the water.

A publicity event hosted by the project’s leader, gentleman sports car racer Leo Hindery, featured then-champion Sebastian Vettel giving members of the media rides around the circuit in an Infiniti G37, then doing doughnuts in the middle of the street.

From then on, though, the project sagged. Within the past six weeks, authorities working for the small towns involved in the project say work long ago ground to a halt. The F1 Group, which Sylt says holds the rights to the race series, has twice dropped the Grand Prix of America from its provisional calendar. In April of 2013, The group and Hindrey together put $20 million into the project, Sylt theorizes. But that was far short of what was required to add the race to the final F1 calendar.

“Two or three backers that Leo had had confirmed to me that they had an agreement with him and they were going to put the money up,” F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone told Sylt for the Forbes article. “If Leo had got the money or I had put the money up that race would have been on.”

'Dying' to race in New York City area

Ecclestone told Sylt it was a chance worth taking, as he has long hoped to stage a race in or close to New York City. “I had nothing to lose with Leo. If somebody had come along and put the money up and he had done the job I would have been delighted.” Teams “were dying to have a race in New York so we were trying to make it happen.”

There are rumors that Ecclestone may eventually turn to longtime friend Tavo Hellmund, who created the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas, and landed a Formula One race there. Hellmund was eventually forced out of his own project by investors, a conflict that resulted in lawsuits, but it was eventually settled out of court.

Hellmund promptly went to work to help land a Formula One race for Mexico City, and that venue is on the schedule for next year. The president of one major speedway predicted that the Mexican grand prix will hurt he F1 race at COTA, since many of its fans the past two years have come from south of the border.

What happens in New Jersey remains to be seen, and there are additional rumors of interested parties who want to promote a race in the New York City area. But unless something changes dramatically, Leo Hindrey – who has been chronically unavailable for interviews this past year – may not lead that effort.

As for Ecclestone, Sylt also wrote in a separate story for The Independent that after Ecclestone's bribery trial, he plans revenge on his rivals. "Now I am in a position where I have got a little bit more time and I shall follow my old idea in life, 'don't get mad, get even'. I haven't got mad but I'm going to get even."

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