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Ecclestone threatens to axe Austin race

NEWS STORY
16/11/2011

Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that next year's United States Grand Prix, due to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, is in serious danger of being dropped.

After weeks of speculation, the situation exploded yesterday, first with Texas state comptroller Susan Combs stating that the $25m race sanction fee would not be paid in advance, followed, just a few hours later, by the announcement that all work at proposed race venue has been suspended.

On Monday, Pitpass revealed that Ecclestone had given organizers a December deadline, by which time the contract had to be signed and the sanction fee paid, the F1 supremo revealing that the fee should have been paid by the end of July.

Speaking today, in the wake of yesterday's dramatic events, Ecclestone warned that the race is in danger of being axed, whilst also revealing a new twist to the sorry saga.

"We've done everything we bloody well can do to make this race happen," he told Press Association Sport. When asked if the event might be dropped from the 2012 schedule when the World Motor Sport Council meets in New Delhi next month to officially ratify the calendar, he replied: "Yes, it will be, for sure, 100%.

"We had an agreement with Full Throttle Productions," he continued. "Everything was signed and sealed, but we kept putting things off like the dates, various letters of credit and things that should have been sent, but nothing ever happened.

"Then these other people (COTA) came on the scene, saying that they wanted to do things, but that they had problems with Tavo (Hellmund). They said they had the circuit, and that they wanted an agreement with me. I told them they had to sort out the contract with Tavo, which they said they would.

"But that has gone away now because we've cancelled Tavo's contract as he was in breach," he revealed, without going into any more detail. "We've waited six months for him to remedy the breach. He knows full well why we've cancelled. He's happy. But these other people haven't got a contract. All we've asked them to do is get us a letter of credit.

"We are looking for security for money they are going to have to pay us," he added. "That is via a letter of credit, normally from a bank. If people don't have the money they find it difficult to get the letter of credit, and so we don't issue a contract.

"It's probably an old-fashioned way of going about things, needing payment, but that's business," he continued. "It's like buying a house. Before you buy that house, and before you get all the paperwork, you make sure you've got the money."

Among other things, Combs claims that her decision to pull the plug on funding for the event was influenced by the recent announcement that New Jersey is to host a race from 2013.

Once again, fans in the United States, arguably one of the most important markets for F1 and a nation that needs to be on board if the sport is to genuinely class itself as a world championship, have been given the finger by the sport.

Deserting the country for years, having previously sold out and allowed races to be held on all manner of unworthy tracks, F1 returned to America via Indianapolis in 2000. However, that too ended in farce when a row over safety - or so they say - saw just six cars start the 2005 event, a day that is widely regarded as one of the most shameful in the history of the sport.

While the row over Austin rumbles on, there are many who remain sceptical as to whether New Jersey will actually come to fruition. Indeed, as Pitpass predicted only a few weeks back, fans in the USA, who were originally expecting one race but were then awarded a second, could find themselves with nothing.

The time is coming when those patient fans across the Atlantic will say enough is enough. Then again, how must those remaining manufacturers in F1 regard this shambolic situation?

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