Last weekend, in a frenzied fit of desperate auto shopping, I found a 1984 BMW 318i for sale. The owner, who wanted just under a grand for it, let me know ahead of time that the old E30 had some fuel delivery issues, but that if I kept the revs high enough, it wouldn’t die. So a friend and I drove out to see it. To make a long, sun-baked story short, we barely got it running at all, and when we did, it wouldn’t climb a shallow hill.
The experience reminds me somewhat of Formula One’s history in America. Between Sebring and Long Beach, Detroit and Phoenix, and most recently Indianapolis, F1 has seen more than a few races within our borders, but none that have come to stay. We’ve never had a Monaco or Spa of our own. But that could soon change, along with the connotation of “Austin City Limits.”
Last week the FIA released their 2012 F1 calendar, stapling down a June 17th, 2012 date for the United States Grand Prix, to be held at a the brand new Circuit of the Americas just outside Austin, Texas. It’s the first purpose built F1 track the US has ever constructed, and could mean a permanent slot on the F1 schedule.
The track, first announced last year, will feature twenty turns, along with 133 feet of overall elevation changes. The total distance is 3.4 miles, including two significant straights. Members of Texas state government have thrown their full support (and plenty of money) behind the effort, hoping to generate revenue for the state and city.
The new track could mean more than Texas tourism, however. It could turn an entirely new page for F1 in the US. And local F1 fans, bored with oval racing and forced to watch Hamilton and Vettel battle over the internet, could actually see F1 on American television. There are currently no American F1 teams (the last one, USF1, crashed before takeoff), but an American track could change this, bringing more sponsor interest, including some from the Big Three.
The FIA is clearly counting on American participation, as they’ve tentatively scheduled F1 events at Austin until 2022. A ten year run is fairly impressive in the states. The Indianapolis Grand Prix only ran for seven years, and Detroit’s F1 event only saw six seasons. But perhaps Austin is just the place to bring F1 to the US for good. It sits *clapclapclapclap* deep in the heart of Texas, a place crawling with racing fans, but known internationally for its cutting-edge art and music scene. So it isn’t a bad choice for a racing series known and understood best by foreigners.
One thing remains universal about organizing this otherwise alien sport: government and racing mix about as well as the sales and shipping departments at company picnics. Circuit of the Americas is no exception. The Texas government has been criticized for promising CotA $25 million a year for ten years, especially in the midst of an $18 billion deficit and fresh from a teacher firing blitz.
But proponents claim that the events held at CotA, including Moto GP, will easily bring the state enough to recoup their losses. Despite the labyrinthine workings of who-pays-for-what, I welcome an F1 race within our shores, one that runs on its own and keeps running, even uphill.
What about you? Would you attend an American Grand Prix at CotA? If ESPN set up a few cameras there, would you watch the race?
Image courtesy of www.fia.com.