Austin F1 track has focus on fans
AUSTIN, Texas -- Promising a fast track with sight lines that will let spectators watch most of the race from wherever they sit, the promoter for the revival of the U.S. Grand Prix said the proposed course is 3.4 miles long with 20 turns and elevations up to 133 feet.
Tavo Hellmund, managing partner of Full Throttle Productions, told The Associated Press the track will include grandstands near the start and finish line for at least 20,000 spectators with room for 50,000 or more around the rest of the track. It could cost up to $220 million to build.
Hellmund called the design "a throwback to old, classic tracks" with several turns inspired by racecourses in Europe.
Formula One officials were expected to formally announce details of the course, designed by German firm Tilke, on Wednesday.
Formula One hasn't raced the U.S. Grand Prix since it was last held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. Formula One announced earlier this year it had a 10-year deal to race in Austin beginning in 2012.
The race in the Texas capital would mark the first U.S. Grand Prix on a course specifically built for an F1 race.
The Austin track is designed to use the natural topography of gently rolling hills on 900 acres a few miles southeast of downtown. Hellmund said designers delivered a track with difficult turns and straightaways to get drivers at speeds around 200 mph.
The design has been approved by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, Hellmund said.
"He likes it," Hellmund said. "I wanted a track that required commitment, is fast, technical and fan friendly."
Hellmund said he wants a facility that will allow spectators to still see the race on distant parts of the track and let them walk to different areas to watch.
"One of the biggest complaints in racing is that you can only see part of the track," Hellmund said. "There will be access to allow people to roam."
Race promoters are facing tight deadlines to get it built. Construction hasn't begun, squeezing the time for builders to pave roads and build grandstands and pit areas.
Hellmund said he hopes to break ground by December or January, if not earlier. Failure to get it completed on time is not an option, he said. Red McCombs, former owner of the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Vikings, is one of the chief financial backers of the project.
Before its run in Indianapolis, Formula One had been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix and other cities on city street circuits. The race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was run on a road course built inside the oval track. Watkins Glen, N.Y., hosted a Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980.
Austin seemed an unlikely destination for a Grand Prix event on a circuit that includes stops in Monte Carlo, Sau Paulo and Singapore. But Austin has a metro-area population of about 1.7 million, and is a three-hour drive or less from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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