First, let me apologize to you dear Pitpass readers for not irritating you in the last few months. I have had several versions of a column about the impending Grands Prix in America all but completed, only for the story to change dramatically enough to have to do a major re-write several times over, with life getting in the way of finishing again. Good Lord, maybe I should start Twittering.
The long and sordid story of The Circuit Of The Americas (COTA) has taken more turns than the track layout itself, and just when you thought it was safe to buy tickets, yet another negative storyline has emerged, with original promoter Tavo Hellmund now suing money men Bobby Epstein and Red McCombs.
The big picture is that this whole project is probably in as big a trouble now as it was last fall when the race sanctioning fee hadn't been paid. The Circuit Of The Americas should have been a dead-on lock for success. It's in a great location with a prime schedule slot. However, infighting led to the man on the inside who actually knew something about Formula One, Hellmund, being unceremoniously kicked to the curb, which all but killed the whole project before it was anything more than a graded mud hole.
Hellmund was the idea man, the one just crazy enough to think that Austin, Texas would be the perfect place for a Grand Prix race. He worked long, hard hours and did an incredible amount of homework and pulled every favour he could to develop and sell his plan to the right people. But all that is for later.
The issue for the here and now is that the antics surrounding the race continue to generate negative buzz. Most die hard race fans and Formula 1 fans I know, the core audience who have been deprived of any real on track excitement since the death of the USGP at Indy, are probably not going to attend the inaugural USGP at Austin this year.
Why not? In 2000 when Indianapolis was announced, the excitement was palpable. Fans I knew back then purchased their tickets and booked their flights and hotels as early as possible. But as of now, days before the season opener and 7 months from the race, there is zero information on tickets for Austin. The only solid information is that for the sum of $100 (£63) you could have bought the privilege to pay between $1000 (£638) and $5000 (£3190) for a 'personal seat license.' According to press from the track; "A personal seat license entitles its holder to purchase tickets for all racing events at Circuit of the Americas for the next 15 years."
So for $1000 you could have been first in line to buy a ticket for the next 15 years. Of course you still have to pay for the ticket. That would equate to paying $10 outside a nightclub to wait in line to pay a $50 cover charge to be let into a club where you would have to pay an additional $100 to see the band and buy drinks.
There is no information on general admission, temporary grandstands or whether camping or RVs will be allowed. That's not reassuring to mere mortal race fans, the people who have to take a couple days off from work, get a flight, and pay a ransom to a hotel. There have also been no infrastructure improvements yet in the area between the highway and the track. Dire predictions of 10 hour traffic jams that were put forth by naysayers and antagonists of the project now look as though they may be closer to the mark than anyone is willing to admit to.