Formula Expo and Circuit of the Americas

By , March 12, 2012 9:45 pm

Readers of this blog over the past year will know that I have been advocating an Expo to promote the understanding of what makes Formula 1 such a well loved sport. Well we made it!  Today’s press launch of Formula Expo and its partnership with Circuit of the Americas kicks-off what promises to be a fun and informative weekend centred around F1. The event takes place on June 16-17 at the Austin Convention Center, and I encourage you to follow along:

Twitter: @FormulaExpo

Web site: www.FormulaExpo.com

Here is the full release for the Expo:

Formula Expo™, in partnership with Circuit of The Americas™, today announced the launch of the first public event in the run-up to the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™. Formula Expo, set for June 16-17, 2012, will be a multi-faceted event open to the public, which will provide families and motorsport enthusiasts the opportunity to connect to the race experience, history, technology and prestige of the Grand Prix.

Formula Expo is a fusion of the top tier of motorsport and Austin culture and music,” said Ian Weightman, founder and president of Formula Expo. “We are thrilled with the support and interest being shown for this event, which will allow visitors to really understand why this is by far the most popular motorsport in the world.”

During Formula Expo attendees will see and meet some of the leading Formula 1™ teams, cars and drivers, while learning about the cutting-edge technologies that make this the pinnacle of motorsport. There will be fascinating exhibits detailing the history of the sport, as well as a fun zone with race driving simulators, competitions, auctions and interactive exhibits.

A live music stage and Texas-themed sports bar at the Expo will further cement the fusion of Formula Expo and Austin culture. The organizers will also host the Band of the Year Grand Final, an evening of the very best in new music, at the famous ACL-Live, Moody Theater on June 16.

“As the momentum builds toward the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™, Circuit of The Americas™ looks forward to collaborating with Formula Expo to showcase the cars, technology, personalities and compelling stories that make up a Grand Prix,” Circuit President and CEO Steve Sexton said. “This is a unique opportunity for businesses, families and motorsports enthusiasts of all backgrounds to engage more closely with the Grand Prix experience while enjoying some of the unique sights and sounds that make Austin a one-of-a-kind destination and fantastic host city. The Formula Expo is sure to be one of many great events that will make the weeks leading up to Austin’s Grand Prix unforgettable for visitors from around world.”

Tickets for Formula Expo go on sale today through the Formula Expo website www.FormulaExpo.com . The event is being held across 120,000 square feet at the Austin Convention Center, and is open to the public on June 16 &17, 2012.

About Formula Expo

Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Formula Expo is one of the first organizations to create an exhibit and demonstration environment for anyone to become more closely connected with Grand Prix racing. With its inaugural event hosted in Austin during build-up to the US Grand Prix™, the organization is structured to replicate the event model in other geographies worldwide.

For more information visit: www.FormulaExpo.com


Formula Expo

By , January 22, 2012 6:52 pm

Great news for Texas F1 fans – with the 2012 Austin Formula 1 Grand Prix now officially on the calendar, and the wait list opened for grandstand race tickets, Austin’s Formula Expo  (www.FormulaExpo.com) is CONFIRMED to take place over the June 15-17, 2012 weekend. The Convention Center will host the Expo itself, with other venues around town featuring some VIP and sponsor events, including Austins 2012 “Battle of the Bands” Final at ACL-Live on Saturday June 16. Formula Expo will be a great opportunity for fans and F1 newbies alike to see first hand how and why Formula 1 brings together the best racing drivers in the world and the most advanced race cars, to create the ultimate in motorsport.

See F1 Cars, Teams and Drivers

Work is now underway in securing teams, drivers and F1 celebrities to make the Expo both highly entertaining and informative. Visitors will be able to see the teams, cars, leading edge technology, and long history that makes F1 such a compelling sport to the 600 million people worldwide that  are expected to watch F1 during 2012.

The Expo floor will extend over 120,000 sq. ft. of downtown Austin’s Convention Center, and will feature exhibits and demonstrations from F1 teams themselves, as well as the companies that produce the sport’s ground breaking technology and spin-off real world applications. Attendees will also get a feel for the glamour that surrounds F1 with some of its world renowned brand sponsors showcasing their products and services at the Expo.

To achieve this, the Expo floor will include a number of different ZONES, each showing a different aspect of the sport:

RACE ZONE

This will include fascinating and fun attractions such as:

  • Interactive exhibits, showing cars from some of the F1 teams.
  • An exhibit from Austin’s “Circuit of the Americas” showing the track and what is in store for race weekend in November.
  • Driving simulators, including tracks such as Monaco as well as Austin, so you can get a taste of what it is like to drive an F1 car!
  • Demonstrations of Formula 1 pit crews in action.
  • Exhibit showing how the driver and constructor championships work, including qualifying, in-race regulations, stewarding, etc.
  • The stage will be the focus for drivers, ex-drivers and team members to talk on their F1 experiences, with a video wall showing amazing F1 footage.

TECHNOLOGY ZONE

This zone will give you an appreciation of why F1 is just as much an engineering contest as it is a driver championship. The exhibits will highlight
some of the cutting edge technologies that are being used in the 2012 F1 cars, plus some fascinating examples of F1 technologies that are now used in everyday applications.

F1 Cosworth Engine

Sections will include:

  • Exhibit F1 engine manufacturer showing an open engine and its key components
  • Demonstration of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that drivers use to boost power, which has the potential for use in road cars.
  • Interactive on-car demonstrations of other key technologies currently being used, especially the Drag Reduction System (DRS), steering wheel and the front wing.
  • Exhibit showing how F1 is going green through changes in regulations that will spur new technologies
  • Examples of technologies developed through F1 that have found real world applications such as ABS, carbon fiber, telemetry, etc.

TRACKS & VENUES ZONE

This Zone will highlight the global nature of F1 using models and multimedia exhibits showing the locations of all of the F1 tracks worldwide.

It will also offer the opportunity for you to visit “F1 experience” travel operators and discuss their travel packages to attend other F1 races around the world.

HISTORY OF F1 ZONE

This Zone will show the history of motor racing and the evolution of F1 using a display of historic cars and memorabilia, cabinets of past race trophies loaned by teams, etc.

See Historic F1 Cars and Meet Past & Present Drivers

EXPO STAGE

The Expo’s stage will host an impressive line-up of faces from F1, who will be giving talks and interviews about all aspects of the sport. Interspersed with this we will add some Austin flavor by featuring some of the City’s favorite bands, so visitors can see why Austin is proud to be know as the “Music Capital of the World”.

FORMULA 1 EXPERIENCE ZONE

The exhibit floor will also have a “fun zone” where you can experience what it is like to drive and F1 car in a state-of-the-art race driving simulator. A zone will be set aside for local Austin businesses to showcase their products and build their relationships with the F1 community.

Experience F1 First-Hand and Up-Close!

Whether you are a seasoned motorsport fan, a local wanting to understand why Formula 1 is such a big deal, a visitor  interested in what Austin has to offer, or just want a great family day out then I encourage you to sign-up for updates on the Formula Expo web site (www.FormulaExpo.com), and mark June 15-17 in your diary NOW!

Discounted “early-bird” tickets and VIP passes for the Expo and off-site activities will go on-sale in February.

Finally, my apologies for the lack of postings recently. As I have been working with some of the folks involved in the the track and the Austin GP, and probably had some insights that were not in the public domain, I felt it would be unfair to use this forum to discuss the negotiations surrounding the race.

Austin F1 Track Update

By , September 27, 2011 12:11 am

Still a baking 102 degrees in Austin on Sunday, but I thought it was about time I ventured out to the track site again. It was a little hard to discern progress from ground level, but it is evident that things are moving forward at a reasonable rate.

Track Access Improvements

Progress on track construction is being slowed because of work on the main route into the track (FM812). The road is being widened near the track entrance to give additional lanes, as this section of the 812 is currently one lane in each direction. The photograph below gives an idea of how the work is progressing.

Work on Track Access from FM812

Work on Track Access from FM812

Apparently work on access is actually delaying the next stage of track construction. Looking at the somewhat half-hearted effort that the Texas Department of Transport (TxDOT) seems to be making on the job, I feel inclined to encourage them to realize they are a pretty vital link in a chain of events that need to happen for the track to be ready!

As far as I can tell, on race day there will be a contraflow system used, with 3 lanes going South into the track and one lane North. Looking at the problems at Silverstone experienced some years ago on race day for the British GP, when some people completely missed the race because they were stuck in traffic, I am still concerned that access is not going to be adequate, even if a lot of people use the proposed “Park ‘n Drive”.

Where EXACTLY is the Track?

One of the questions that I get asked most often is from people living in the Austin area who have yet to visit the track: “I know the track is somewhere near the airport but where EXACTLY is it?”. Well, the easiest way to get there is to head South on Highway 183 from Austin, passing the Highway 71 turn for the airport, and then take the next exit, which is FM812. Head East on 812, and after you pass under Toll road 130/45 the track is just over a mile further on your left.

I am also seeing some artistic license being show on the position of the track in relation to downtown – for example, images showing the track framed by the Austin skyline.  To test this out, I went to the highest p0int of the track, and looking towards Austin this is the view I could see (with the Austin Bergstrom airport control tower also visible). Bear in mind I was using a 10x zoom to get this perspective. So, yes the track is close to Austin, but don’t get to thinking the cars will be heard from Congress Avenue!

Austin F1 Expo (Experience)

Great news here!  There seems an inevitable momentum to creating an event showing the full F1 experience through an “Expo” which will take place a few weeks ahead of Austin’s inaugural GP. When I met with CoTA recently they confirmed their interest in such an event as part of the drumbeat leading to the race, and will offer their support.

So, we are looking to hold it either mid-June at the Austin Convention Center, or mid-August during the season break at the Palmer Event Center. LOTS more on this soon!

Red Bull & Coulthard in Austin

By , August 30, 2011 11:03 pm

Having followed David Coulthard’s racing career since he and Rubens Barrichello went head-to-head in Formula 3000 in the early 1990s, it was gratifying to see that he was in a Red Bull car again last week, and in Austin! Red Bull shot a promotional video in the city centre, which comprised of a Red Bull run down Congress Avenue, culminating in Coulthard’s impressive donut spin!

David Couthard's Donut Spin on Congress Avenue in Austin

David Couthard's Donut Spin on Congress Avenue in Austin

 

The whole event seemed very relaxed, and Couthard was in good form as he met with Austinites who had turned out in pretty large numbers given that there had been very little publicity ahead of the video shoot.

Couthard Meeting Austin F1 Fans During his Recent Visit to Shoot a Red Bull Video

The action then moved on to the Circuit of the Americas Track construction site in Elroy. just outside of Austin. Here, Coulthard became the first drive to actually take an F1 car onto the circuit – even though it is still unpaved!

Couthard Driving a Red Bull on What is Soon to become the CoTA Track in Austin

 

Red Bull on Track at Circuit of Americas - in 102 Degree Heat

I was also pleased to see that the CoTA team seems to have begun to step-up the publicity, and I particularly liked the latest video featuring Bruce Knox which shows interesting content including quotes from Jenson Button and other F1 drivers. If you would like to take a look for yourself please click here: LATEST AUSTIN F1 VIDEO

 

New Austin F1 Date

By , August 15, 2011 12:04 am

Although it is not “official” yet, I welcome the news that Bernie Ecclestone’s revised F1 calendar shows the Austin GP moving back to November 18, 2012. This would make it the penultimate race of the 2012 season, with only Brazilian GP to follow, and so it could be the race that crowns the driver and/or team world champions - although it is also possible that both championships could already be in the bag by then. I really feel that a June Austin GP would have real problems in trying to protect drivers, teams and spectators from the heat – remember it was 104F in Austin one year prior to the race!

Looking at the latest footage of progress of the Austin F1 track ( http://circuitoftheamericas.com/progress.html ) it is encouraging to see that construction seems to be continuing on schedule – which is  one of the few benefits of a summer full of days over 100F with no rain!

So, the Expo that I have mentioned in recent posts? Well, the move of the GP date back to November does give us plenty of time to get a great event planned and executed. I still have not heard from CoTA or FOM that an official Expo is planned, although I hope to get some answers over the next few days. If not, I seem to have sufficient interest across the F1 spectrum to put a proposal forward. So, watch this space!

Law Suits, Tickets and Expo

By , July 10, 2011 11:42 pm

Austin Council & Law Suits

It looks like things are resolved with Austin City Council after they endorsed the Austin GP last week. I am still not sure if the consequences of vote against would have actually threatened the race, or if it would just have caused Tavo, Red and Co, to have to fund the shortfall if the monies had not been released. Either way it is good news, and it was impressive how many local F1 fans got involved to support the race, which bodes well for the future if support needs to be mobilized on other issues facing the race.

That just leaves the rather silly law suit from three local residents to be dealt with. The basis of their suit seems to be that the Council is not authorised to sign a check for the F1 monies because the race date has not been confirmed. It seems like sour grapes from a small group of locals who are against any progress for Austin, and who would prefer to see the city return to how it was in the 1950s!  The good news is that their attorney asked for the suit to be withdrawn, although apparently it could be refiled at a later date.

Ticket Prices

Still no news on the AustinF1 race ticket prices, but I noticed that today’s British GP at Silverstone had a record attendance over the weekend, with 88,000 attending Friday practise, 105,000 watching qualifying on Saturday and 122,000 attending the race itself. Prices for race day ranged from £110 ($182) for general entry to £310 ($512) for a covered grandstand seat, and I imagine Austin prices will be in a similar range.

I did also wonder about the chances of getting the Austin race to sell-out its 120,000 tickets, given that the ever-popular British GP only achieved that level of attendance for the first time today. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway refuses to give “official” attendance figures for the US GP when it was held there, but the BBC estimated attendance at around 125,000 for the last US GP in 2007, with considerably more at the first GP at the Speedway in 2000 -  so maybe Austin will be able to make the inaugural race a sell-out.

Austin F1 Expo

Well things seem to be gathering momentum on the idea of holding an F1 Expo in Austin. I continue to get interest both internationally and from local businesses, including some potential sponsors. I will be speaking with all of these over the next couple of weeks, and if the momentum proves to be as strong as it appears then I am hopeful we can make it happen. A lot more about this in coming weeks.

Austin F1 – Dates, Votes, Expo & Site Progress

By , June 17, 2011 11:07 pm

Today it was 104 degrees F (40 Celsius) at the Circuit of the Americas track-site in Austin, and even hotter closer to town. Why is that significant? Well, today (June 17) is exactly one year prior to the FIA’s provisional date for the inaugural Austin F1 GP.

Change Race Date from June?

I think today’s heat says more clearly than anything else why Tavo and Bernie need to consider getting together to persuade the FIA to move the race back to October or November, when the Austin climate would be an asset rather than  a potentially lethal negative for the race. With track temperatures usually significantly higher than the ambient, drivers will have difficulty keeping cool and the likelihood is that scores of spectators will suffer heatstroke, despite the proposed track-side mister systems.

On the face of it, holding the race back-to-back with the Canadian GP makes sense from the perspective of keeping travel to a minimum. However, using the same rationale, the Austin GP could be moved adjacent to the Brazilian GP, which is provisionally set for November 2012 as many of the teams already travel through Dallas TX on their way to Brazil. It is a little unclear whether Tavo and the Circuit of the Americas team are supporting a change of date, but this recent link on the C oTA web site  seems to indicate that they do, although I have not heard any “official” comment.

Of course this could all be a subtle way of introducing Bernie’s ”artificial rain” idea!

Austin City Council Vote & Petitions

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should remember that all such discussion could all be irrelevant if the naysayers on the Austin City Council vote against the race at their meeting on Thursday June 23rd. It is a little difficult to decipher the true effect of a negative vote, or even exactly what the vote will be as the motion has yet to be published, but the essence of the problem is that the track and Austin’s GP have become something of a political football in Saturday’s run-off election between Council Member Randi Shade and challenger Kathie Tovo.

Tovo has been very vocal about the fact that she thinks $4 million in annual City subsidies for the race are a waste of money, despite all of the benefits and tax revenues the race will bring. The thought that Tovo might win and create a majority against ratifying the F1 plans has led to much consternation, and the creation of at least two petitions in support of the race, targeted at City Council members. There has been some recent maneuvering to cool things down, but it is still makes the race vulnerable and so I have signed these petitions, and they would benefit from support from all F1 fans. You can find the change.org petition here and the ipetitions version here. 

Austin F1 Expo

I have had discussions and meetings with a number of parties supporting the idea of an F1 Expo in Austin. There definitely seems to be a good deal of positive momentum, and that has encouraged me to pursue the idea further. While the lack of firm date for the race may make things harder to plan, there seems to be sufficient interest to move to the proposal and planning stage. I will release the draft proposal next month, and post a copy on this site.

Progress at the Austin Track Site

So, how is the track coming along? The good news here is that the continuing drought in Austin has been good for the developers, who have been able to work pretty much non-stop since March. Here are a couple of aerial shots from earlier this week, courtesy of CoTA.

View of Whole Track Site

Track contours, tunnel walls and paddock area progressing well

 

Paddock in centre of picture, with surrounding area countors discernable

Austin Formula 1 Expo 2012

By , May 15, 2011 11:29 pm

A couple of weeks ago I floated the idea of holding a Formula 1 Expo in Austin prior to the inaugural Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. I am pleased to say that the concept got some positive feedback, and so I would like to explore the idea a bit further here and invite additional comment. I have included some recent photos of team and sponsor exhibitions held around the world to whet the appetite!

Recent Tag Heuer F1 Exhibition

Recent Tag Heuer F1 Exhibition

What Would be the Main Objective of the Expo?

The objective would be two-fold:

1) To inform the local catchment area, including the potential markets of Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, about what an exciting, interesting and fun sport Formula 1 is, and what the race weekend will comprise. As we know, the history of F1 in the US has been rather disappointing, and in-part this is down to the fact that F1 has failed to capture the public’s imagination, so hopefully the Expo would help in this regard.

2) To showcase Austin to the broader F1 community, enabling the City and local businesses to highlight what Austin has to offer, both as the host to F1 and in a broader sense as a great place to visit and do business.

What Would be Shown at the Expo?

The Expo should be educational and entertaining as well as meeting the objectives of the exhibitors. Hence, I would envisage:

  • Exhibits from the FIA, some of the F1 teams including a car or two, the Circuit of the Americas, Tag Heuer and other F1 sponsors, etc., hopefully with many of them including some  merchandizing “giveaways”.
  • A video theatre showing informative and compelling F1 content, with possibly some in 3D.
  • Driving simulators, including tracks such as Monaco as well as Austin, so visitors get a a taste of what it is like to drive an F1 car.
  • Stands from Austin’s hotels, restaurants, music venues, and other race related businesses.
  • Plenty of “special guests” including former and even current drivers, high profile executives and engineers from the teams, motor racing commentators and pundits,  celebrities who follow F1, etc. 
Full Motion Simulator

Full Motion Simulators are Exteremely Popular and Would Provide a Great Attraction at the Expo

Where and When Should the Expo be Held?

The Expo needs to be held after the start of the 2012 F1 season, so that the momentum it creates can gather pace as visitors will have the opportunity to watch other F1 races on TV prior to the Austin GP, but without there being too big of a time lag causing interest to wane. Hence, about 6-12 weeks prior to the Austin GP would seem to be a good target. Of course, the fact that the date of the race will not be known until around September rather complicates the initial planning!

As for venue, on the one hand the conference facilities at the track itself would seem like a good option. However, with construction work likely to be continuing right up to race weekend, the Expo would likely be an unwelcome distraction, and hence Circuit of the Americas would probably not want the additional pressure of having to have the Expo facilities ready ahead of the track, especially with the additional public safety constraints that would impose while getting the track ready. Consequently, the best option seems to be the Austin Convention Center or Palmer Events Centre.

One of the Exhibition Halls at the Austin Convention Centre

One of the Exhibition Halls at the Austin Convention Centre

How Would the Expo be Funded?

Well first off I would say it should definitely NOT look for tax payer funding, especially in the current environment! I also feel that the entry fee for the public should be kept low, as the whole objective is to create interest and inform. Hence, the bulk of the funding would need to come from the exhibitor fees and sponsorships. I also think that it would be better to keep the event independent and not directly run by FOM or F1 USA as that would be sure to politicise the event, which I think would be unhelpful.

What Next?

I am hoping to get feedback, positive or negative, via this site, Twitter @F1_AustinTX, or email at Ian@formula1austinblog.com. I am especially interested to know if anything similar to this is being planned, and from anyone wishing to become involved in making it happen if we can build some momentum with the idea.

THANKS!

Oh, and to finish, one final very cool stand at a recent F1 exhibition, courtesy of Tag Heuer.

Compelling Effects at This F1 Exhibition Stand in April 2011

Compelling Effects at This F1 Exhibition Stand in April 2011

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas

By , April 25, 2011 11:49 pm

So, Austin’s F1 facility is now to be known as the Circuit of the Americas.  I was not sure if I liked the name at first, but it has begun to grow on me. It does convey the fact that that the track will be multi-functional circuit rather than a one race venue, which has been the case with some of the other recent additions to the F1 calendar. Inclusion of “the Americas” in the name speaks to the fact that the venue will draw interest from beyond the US – especially from neighbouring Mexico if F1 rookie Sergio Perez continues as impressively as he has done so far this season.

It was encouraging to see the announcement covered during a on-site feature on Speed Channel and we have also learned more about what is planned for the Austin facility from other recent announcements by Full Throttle Productions and others:

  • There will be around 30 days per year of motor racing at the circuit, including a round of the MotoGP Grand Prix World Championship from 2013, and of course the US Formula 1 GP from 2012. The venue was confirmed at 120,000 capacity for F1 race day.
  • The Circuit master plan includes a variety of permanent structures that can be used for business, education and entertainment on non race days. For example, the paddock building  will also serve as a 500-person banquet hall for events such as private or corporate dinners and nonprofit fundraising galas.
  • The main grandstand will house luxury suites that can be used for business entertaining. This will have a capacity of over 700 and will also include a cafe.
  • The media and conference center will be available for business conferences, seminars and receptions, and I hope to be able to use this facility to host some of the technology conferences that my company runs, meaning that I can get to work and play at the same time! During race weekends, the conference facilities will convert into an international media center, accommodating the world’s traveling press.
  • There will be a further 14 large suites each equipped with kitchens, advanced A/V and broadband to serve as business meeting suites for up to 75 people. During race weekends, teams and sponsors will use the suites for meetings and hospitality. 
  • The 5,400 square foot Medical Building will be available for year round use as a training facility for the city’s emergency services as well as medical school students. During races, it will serve as a trauma care location for drivers, marshals and pit crews who may be injured during the races.
  • I am pleased to say that Austin’s live music heritage will also play a big part in the circuit’s business model, and with a bit of luck will bring some of the more popular bands to Austin, most of whom currently prefer to play San Antonio, Dallas or Houston because of the lack larger venues in Austin.  The circuit’s Grand Plaza is being designed as an open stage area where performers can entertain thousands of people in a panoramic setting.  
  • There are a number of other proposed amenities in the works, including a driving/riding experience, a motorsports driving club, kart track, grand plaza event center and tower, and a trackside RV park.

On a rather more controversial subject, The Texas legislature may be about to cut the $25 million incentive package that had been promised to help fund the Austin track, and this has got some people very worked up on both sides. But delving deeper it seems that the cuts are far from a foregone conclusion. Apparently, the Texas Senate Finance Committees vote to cut the funding in its version of the State budget is likely to be be partially or wholly reversed by the House, which is a believer in the financial benefits that F1 will bring to Texas, and have already included it in their budget. 

I was also interested to see that McLaren, and FOTA chairman, Martin Whitmarsh has been voicing his opinion about the need for F1 to do more marketing, especially in the USA. As Martin says: “The USA does not need Formula One, we need the USA, and I think if we just plonk ourselves down there and believe that America is going to reignite its enthusiasm for Formula One, I think we are wrong.” I totally agree, and does reinforce my point I made last time about the need for something like an F1 Expo in Austin to help promote all aspects of F1 to both businesses and the potential audience.

Finally a note to those of you who are commenting on this blog.  You may experience a bit of a delay before your post shows-up, as I am trying to reduce the number of spam posts the site is receiving by checking all comments before they post.

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Bruce Knox on Austin’s F1 Grand Prix

By , April 4, 2011 11:01 pm

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Seton Forum luncheon in Austin at which Bruce Knox, CEO of Formula 1 United States, was the guest speaker. I had an opportunity to chat with Bruce prior to his presentation, and I was pleased to see how open he is to constructive ways of promoting the Austin GP, and that there are already a number of interesting ideas in the works.

Potential Audience for the Austin GP is Half a Billion People in 187 Countries!

Bruce Knox stressed the potential benefits that the Grand Prix will bring to Austin, both in terms of direct income and by increasing the national and international profile of the city. It was apparent that many in the audience were not familiar with the tremendous international attention that every F1 race receives. For example, Formula One Management’s (FOM) official viewership figure for F1 was 527 million unique viewers during the 2010 season, with a total of 16,000 hours of F1 content being broadcast to 187 countries (source www.formula1.com).  Only the Olympics and World Cup football attract larger audiences, and they only happen once every 4 years.

Even this blog reinforces the tremendous draw that F1 has, having received over 118,000 hits from 77 countries in the last 5 weeks, with still well over a year to go to the race itself. So, there is no doubt that Austin will be in the spotlight during its GP weekends, it is down to the city and local businesses to decide how best to leverage this to the benefit of everyone.

What Will be the Other Uses for the Racetrack?

One of the most interesting things to come from Bruce’s talk was the list of other uses the team behind Austin Racetrack is considering to monetize the track facilities outside of the F1 race week, and to offer benefit to the local community. These include:

1) Additional Motor Races- as the only US racetrack with the highest FIA rating, it is ideal for use for all forms of motorsport.

2) Driving Clubs – the track is likely to become home to one or more driving clubs and performance driving schools.

3) Driving & Riding Experiences – enabling members of the public to experience a high speed track first hand.

4) Test Track – for both race and production vehicles.

5) Product Launches – Approaches have already been made by motor vehicle manufacturers who want to rent the track to film promotional videos.

6) Media and Conference Centre- Either using the F1 facilities or purpose built additional accommodation.

7) Partnering with Schools and Universities- Making engineering interesting to students by bringing it alive through F1 could help the US from falling further down the international league table of engineering graduates.

Additionally, there are proposals for a music venue, hotels and an innovation centre in and around the track, and there is still time for other ideas to be put forward.

Bruce was asked about ticket pricing for the race weekend, and he neatly side-stepped the question by saying that pricing was under evaluation. However, he did mention that there will be a large number of general admission tickets available. This will enable holders to sit on the grassy areas around the track, making for a more varied and interactive experience.

Apparently, there will be 120,000 tickets available for race day, and I am wondering about the viability of increasing this number as it may not be sufficient – especially in future years if the race is marketed well

An Idea .. How About an Austin F1 Expo?

Talking with Bruce got me thinking .. we have all of the ingredients to create a very successful event, and the main challenge really lies in informing local residents and businesses about the huge positive impact the race could bring. Maybe we should hold an Austin F1 Expo in early 2012, supported by Formula 1 US and the FOM, with the objective of introducing F1 to the local community, and expounding its commercial potential to local businesses?

Move on this in future blogs, but comments welcome!

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