Austin paper turns wary eye on USGP designer Tilke

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I’ve got to hand it to the Austin American-Statesman. It is following an old journalistic tenant: Every good story deserve a follow.

And the Statesman is following the “Formula 1 coming to our town” story.

It’s latest? A look at the track designer, F1B favorite Herman Tilke. Here’s a few key excerpts:

Aside from billionaire boss Bernie Ecclestone, few figures in the flamboyant world of Formula One racing are more polarizing than Hermann Tilke, a 55-year-old German engineer.

When Tilke GmbH was announced as the designer for the proposed Austin Grand Prix track, race fans here and around the globe were quick to post scathing comments on websites charging that Tilke and his “boring” courses were killing racing. “Effete,” “sterile” and “characterless” are some of the adjectives heaped by self-appointed critics on his designs.


The Grand Prix project is the second racing deal in the Austin area that has banked on Tilke’s name. Four years ago, racing enthusiast Steve Patti and his partners contracted with Tilke to design a facility for a high-end driving country club they wanted to develop in the Hill Country.

Patti calls Tilke “the gold standard in racing, like having Jack Nicklaus design your golf course.” The proposed club, Bergrennenring, would have been the first in the U.S. for the designer whose tracks and lavish hotels epitomize the glamour of the F1 racing circuit from Turkey to China and Abu Dhabi.

“Tilke was for us the Holy Grail,” said Patti, a marketing consultant. “When we went to investors, that was to be part of the eye candy. We’ve got Hermann Tilke. Do you want in or not?”


Eventually, Patti said, he put down a $100,000 deposit and signed a contract with the firm. Wahl, who was to be the liaison, is also likely to be in charge of the proposed Austin Grand Prix, as Hellmund said Wahl typically handles the firms’ projects in the Western Hemisphere.

In 2007, Patti and his partners looked for a suitable site. Patti said he was surprised how quickly word spread about the project, especially among potential neighbors. It turned out to be a hard sell.

“There’s a bunch of wooing and courting you have to do,” said Patti. “The commissioners, the neighbors — we had people asking if the lights would keep their cattle up at night. We had a lot of two-hour, three-hour and four-hour meetings.”

You might be asking yourself: Why the coverage of the coverage? Well, I think it is helpful for us to have an idea of what picture of the proposed race is being painted for locals in and around Austin. If we feel like they are getting a realistic picture, it might give us a better sense of whether the track and race will come together; conversely, if not, we can perhaps get a little more worried.

So far, I think Statesman readers are getting a pretty solid flow of information. Let’s hope they are reacting positively.


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