AUSTIN (KXAN) - The finish line -- rather, deadline -- fast approaches for Austin's Formula One group to pay $25 million to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone for rights to the race.
Dec. 7 was the announced date the proverbial flag was to drop and Circuit of the Americas pay up, according to news reports earlier this month.
However, according to an interview with Autoweek magazine writer Adam Cooper, published Monday, Ecclestone said the deadline is instead Nov. 30 .
Austin racing fans have anxiously looked to the day when the track taking shape east of Austin was abuzz with the sound of flashy race cars. Instead, the construction site was silenced on Nov. 15 when bulldozers were hoisted onto trailers and moved off the ripped-up land because money had not been paid.
Dec. 7 is the day the FIA World Motor Sports Council meets to finalize the F1 racing schedule for 2012. Austin's first race was supposed to be on the schedule for November 2012, which Ecclestone confirmed in August. Likely, at the time, he expected to receive the $25 million Formula 1 racing was owed by contract-holder and race promoter Tavo Hellmund.
When Hellmund and his group, Full Throttle Productions, couldn't pay the sanctioning fee when it first came due as far back as May, Ecclestone canceled the contract.
Hellmund spoke publicly about the finances on Nov. 17 , citing various issues. However, he stopped short of pointing fingers at COTA investors and staff, which includes founding partner Red McCombs, partner Bobby Epstein, president Steve Sexton, executive vice president Bruce Knox, chief financial officer Dan Allen and chief marketing and sales officer Geoff Moore.
Ecclestone wasn't so kind in Monday's interview with Cooper. In Cooper's Autoweek blog post, he quotes the F1 boss, who talks about the contract and speculates on Hellmund's relationship with McCombs and the others.
"I was disappointed insofar as he had what he thought were partners that could finance the business and wouldn't let him down. Really, they let him down and they're trying to steal from him, get him out of it, and do the whole thing themselves," Ecclestone said to Cooper.
Ecclestone said he didn't have a problem with Hellmund, a former racer who he promoted races with in the 1980s, and that Hellmund trusted people who "aren't as reliable as they should be."
Circuit of the Americas recently sent Ecclestone and F1 a new contract, but Ecclestone told Cooper, "...we are not interested."
According to the Cooper blog, "Ecclestone is not confident in COTA's ability to pay for the race over the long term, especially after the $25 million sanctioning fee promised by Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs in May 2010 has not been forthcoming."
The reference here is to money expected to come from the Texas Major Events Fund, which requires receipt of a completed application, a new economic impact study and holding of a first race, which has to happen before any state money is put into COTA's hands.
Asked if F1 would have given COTA and Austin the race without the $25 million from the state, Ecclestone told Cooper, "It's not just the $25 million, that's a small part of it, it's the whole package. Everybody else seems to be happy and comply. I think the problem is a simple one, they never had the money. It's simple."
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