Austin track could hold 140,000 fans, will have passing, promoter says

Plans for a track outside of Austin where the US Grand Prix would be held starting in 2012 call for room for 140,000 fans, the promoter said Tuesday night.

The Austin American-Statesman was there, and it has details:

“It will be the biggest thing Austin has ever had,” Hellmund said, adding that 50,000 of those fans could be seated in grandstands while the rest could sit on the grounds, stand or stroll around the track .

Hellmund revealed those details while speaking to an overflow crowd of more than 400 people at the Headliners Club in downtown Austin. He spoke at an event staged by the Urban Land Institute that sparked ” an overwhelming response to tell you the truth,” said David Knoll, director of the institute’s Austin district council.

Hellmund touched on a variety of topics during the speech, including Austin’s ideal location for an F1 race because of its proximity to Canada, Mexico and South America. If a couple of young Mexican drivers pan out in the next few years, Hellmund said, many of the F1 fans that head to Austin could come from outside the United States.

“I could see 30,000 or 40,000 people from Latin America coming,” he said.


Hellmund added that he wanted to stage an exciting race and said there would be “four real passing zones” on the track, which will be about 3.2 miles long and located southeast of Austin on about 900 acres.

Construction is not expected to begin until December. Hellmund said he realizes deadlines are tight but that he was optimistic they would be met.

Peter Wahl, a managing partner of Tilke GmbH, the German firm that is overseeing the design and construction of the track, has been in Austin for the past few days and was on hand for Hellmund’s presentation.

Wahl said while construction would have to occur quickly, that was more the norm than the exception with such projects these days.

Well, it still isn’t a full accounting of the plans, but Hellmund and others are at least starting to give us something. And the apparent focus on creating an exciting track is interesting, although as has been discussed plenty of times here at F1B, to a certain extent it is impossible to “create” the exciting parts of a track. The Spas, Monzas, Silverstones, etc. have their exciting moments almost despite the engineering involved. It is the imperfections that are what’s memorable — and no one in their right mind would knowingly create an imperfect track.


Still, that Hellmund is out in public speaking to Austin crowds is a promising development. As is this:

Hellmund said the date of the race would not be set until late 2011 but added, “I can assure you it’s not July or August.”

I’d actually argue that the North American swing — at this point the Austin race coupled with Canada — begin down in the Lone Star state. While there’s no promise that an early June date will be cooler than a mid-June one, it sure seems like the better bet. Probably the main obstacles are how early Formula 1 would push Monaco and whether there would be any consideration — hang on, now — to running the USGP on the same weekend as that other big American motor race.

But talk about F1 making a statement.

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