• GP Week

5 minutes with ... Tavo Hellmund

Adam Hay-Nicholls July 15, 2010
Tavo Hellmund is confident the circuit will be ready in time © Sutton Images
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How has the US GP been progressing since the announcement was made?
There hasn't needed to be any progress on the land because we already have the land. I know people have been digging around to find my names. Well, I wasn't a rookie and everything was put in holding names. The land is exciting and the Tilke folks have been coming non-stop. We changed Turns 1 and 3 last week, just for aesthetic reasons - lines of sight. For people who aren't Tilke fans, I think it's a departure for Tilke.

What are the circuit characteristics?
There are elevation changes, it's going to be over three miles long, and there will be fast corners. There will be several places on the track that spectators can see multiple corners. We like the layout now. The pit buildings will be quite conservative. In Texas our buildings are quite conservative. Tilke's been going to Austin for this project for over two years, and is working with local contractors. They've seen the local architectural style. In Texas we use a lot of white limestone and light bricks. It will have kind of the flavour of the University of Texas' new sports facilities.

How much is it going to cost to build? People are saying $250 million.
It'll be a little less than that. It's a sizeable sum, nothing you can sneeze at, but we can't have a lot of overage from our business model. It's going to be a multi-purpose facility with a lot of commercial and retail development as well.

Will you try to get Indy Car, NASCAR and MotoGP too?
I don't think we'd try to get NASCAR. The folks at Texas Motor Speedway do such a phenomenal job at what they do there's no reason for us to try. All the other events, of course. Any kind of motorized race will probably be interested in having us on the calendar, and we need more than one event.

So where's all the money coming from?
Why is that anybody's business? I've got a big group put together that is world class, well known, and a lot of them are going to want to stay anonymous. The only two groups that I have to satisfy outside of our group is Formula One Management, who ask for your bank statements, and the State of Texas for passing the legislation that will allow us to be included in the Major Events Trust Fund. There's a huge misconception within the liberal media in Texas saying we're getting a hand-out. We are not getting a hand-out. What our event qualifies for is this trust fund, which is a huge coup. It means the incremental sales tax revenue generated by the event is being contributed to us.

So no public funds are being spent?
It's all based on the new money the event creates. It's a win-win for everybody.

And you've already bought the land? How many acres?
Yes, most of it over a year and a half ago. I can tell you it's over 600 acres and less than 2000.

And it's near Bergstrom Airport?
Sort of near there. We're actually going to announce the site this week.

2012 is just two years away. Are you confident it's going to get done?
We can't spend money any faster than we already are. Tilke and the general contractors have been working on this for a while and everyone's saying we can do it. If not, that doesn't mean we're not going to have a grand prix. We'll pay whatever penalty we need to pay. We're not doing this to have a one-off race. We want to have the US Grand Prix here for the next 40 years.

So what you're saying is, if you're not ready by 2012 you can always run it in 2013…
Well yeah, but we don't want to do that. That wouldn't be financially beneficial. We have a contract that says we need to have a grand prix in 2012.

But if that doesn't happen the penalty will be sizeable. I mean Bernie would completely bend you over if that happened…
Well yeah, everything in Formula One is sizeable but we don't want that to happen.

To get it ready for that date, when do you actually need to start digging holes in the ground?
It needs to be in the next few months.

And you're confident you'll have all the planning permissions you need by then?
Certainly hope so. We've got a burn rate right now that's enormous and we wouldn't be spending this money if we weren't confident we can make this happen.