• US Grand Prix

Show me the money

ESPN.com's Terry Blount
May 26, 2010
Ferrari fans at the 2007 US Grand Prix ... but is yesterday's announcement likely to bring the sport back to the USA? © Getty Images
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I hate to rain on Austin's Formula One parade, but a lot of questions need to be answered before I believe the Texas capital is getting an F1 race in 2012.

Oh, it would be grand. Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 elite sipping longnecks and munching on some ribs at Stubb's Bar-B-Que, grid girls checking out the bars on Sixth Street, and coach Mack Brown showing Lewis Hamilton how to do the "Hook 'em Horns" sign.

It would be fun, a great thing for Texas and a wonderful answered prayer for all the F1 fans hoping to see the series return to US soil. But Tuesday's announcement requires a large dose of scepticism.

No one seems to know if Tavo Hellmund, the Central Texas racer and promoter behind the project, has any money. And we're talking real money here, hundreds of millions of dollars to make this happen.

The plan calls for building a three-mile road course exclusively for F1 - a facility of $200 million to $300 million. It's more than just building a track, a major expense by itself.

Playing host to a Formula One event would require at least 50,000 grandstand seats, state-of-the-art racing garages for the F1 teams and a media center to house the hundreds of reporters worldwide who cover F1 regularly.

Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth cost $250 million to build, and that was 15 years ago. F1 hasn't raced in the United States since it left Indianapolis in 2007. Tony George, the former president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, spent an estimated $50 million to bring F1 back to America in 2000.

IMS added a road course in the infield, coupled with part of the oval track, along with new team garages and the largest media center of any racetrack in the country. That doesn't include the sanctioning fees for holding an F1 race, reportedly in excess of $20 million a year.

F1 boss Ecclestone acts like the Austin race is a done deal for 10 years. Even Texas governor Rick Perry praised the plan as if everything was in place. But no one has said where the financing is coming from and who is putting up the funding.

Who are the investors? It won't be the state of Texas, which like many other states these days is billions of dollars in debt. No one is saying exactly where the track would be built, supposedly within 10 miles of the Austin airport. And the land hasn't been purchased by Hellmund's firm of Full Throttle Productions.

Big announcements in racing often are wishful thinking. An individual or group says it is starting a team or building a track, hoping to generate enough attention that sponsors and investors will make it a reality. Most of the time the plan fails. USF1, which announced plans for an F1 team based in Charlotte, N.C., is a prime example.

Let's hope Tuesday's announcement succeeds. They have two years to work out all the details and complete the project.

But a ton of questions remain unanswered, starting with this one: Can you show me the money?

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com after 25 years as a sports reporter and columnist at three major metro newspapers.

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