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NOVEMBER 16, 2011

Austin GP work stops amid dispute

The return of the United States Grand Prix, scheduled for November of 2012 in a new facility currently being built in Austin, Texas, has been cast into doubt as as work on the circuit has been halted.

During the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this past weekend F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone told reporters that the Austin race faces difficulties and he was unsure whether it will go ahead as planned. Ecclestone said, "We are trying. There are two parties. One has got a track and is building it, and the other has got the contract. And they forgot to talk to each other."

In the ongoing saga, Tavo Hellmund's Full Throttle Productions, which owns the rights to hold the race, and Circuit of the Americas, who are building the track, are in a dispute as the hosting contract needs to be transferred to the circuit for the event to go ahead - but this has not occurred.

A statement issued Tuesday night by the Circuit of the Americas said that work has been halted and will not resume until the contract is put in place.

In the statement Bobby Epstein, one of the circuit's founders said, "We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula 1 and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern."

"I don't know why Formula One would want to kill this race. The money is in place; the project is on time. All COTA needs is for Formula One to convey the original contracts that were in place for a long time."

Afterward, the Full Throttle company issued a statement saying, "After years of effort in getting F1 to Austin, Full Throttle Productions and city, county and state officials have done all we could. It is the responsibility of Circuit of the Americas to bring it across the finish line. For the sake of everyone, we are hopeful that they can reach an agreement with Formula 1."

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs then announced a change in the plan to provide $25m per year in subsidies from the state's Major Events Trust Fund for 10 year to the project, stating that the first payment to the organisers would not be made until after the first race has occurred - previously it was thought that the first installment was forthcoming.

Combs said, "The State of Texas will not be paying any funds in advance of the event. Further, as is the case with all (Major Events Trust Fund) events, each application will be reviewed and analyzed for its likely economic impact, and only after the race occurs would any funds be disbursed."

Combs also expressed concern over the recently announced GP in New Jersey, saying, "Additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race, thereby decreasing the economic impact."

The current impasse threatens the race for 2012, as the circuit construction is already on a tight schedule after a slowdown in late August. If matters aren't resolved soon, it is thought that the FIA might be forced to drop the event when it confirms the 2012 F1 calendar at the next next World Motor Sport Council meeting scheduled for early December.