USGP In Austin To Learn From Korea’s F1 Close Call?

By Tom Martin

October 22, 2010

As we reported a month ago, F1 track design regulars Tilke GmbH are busily working to create an interesting 3.4-mile circuit just outside of Austin for the US Grand Prix. The track incorporates ideas and learnings from current F1 circuits, adapted to the gently rolling countryside east of Austin. In an interview with Winding Road media partner The Austin American-Statesman, Tilke lead designer Peter Wahl said, “We have done a lot for drivers. They want to have high-speed corners; that’s what they like. We want to force them into faults and errors; otherwise the race is not interesting.”

But ever since the surprise announcement this spring by Bernie Ecclestone of the USGP in Austin, skepticism has run high about the ability of organizers to fund and build a track by 2012. The recent concerns that the new Korean GP track would not be ready for this weekend’s inaugural race have simply reinforced the practical difficulties of creating a new track, particularly when massive government funding isn’t involved. (The state of Texas is providing some funds for F1, but essentially nothing for the facility itself).

The Statesman reports that Nick Craw, Senate president of the FIA and the US representative for F1 sanctioning, has been impressed with progress in Austin.

“It’s a very strong team they’ve assembled here” Said Craw, “I think it’s a very good plan and a very solid business model.”

Craw pointed out that the FIA is evaluating a proposal to require new tracks to pass muster 90 days before racing commences to avoid another incident like that in Korea. But race promoter Tavo Hellmund seems to think this would be a difficult requirement. This could turn out to be a bigger or smaller issue for the 2012 US race depending on when the race falls on the schedule.