Rolex Series on the rise, Austin F1 race sinking fast.

On Tuesday I watched, with great interest and enthusiasm, the Grand-Am press conference introducing the new Corvette-ish bodywork for all the 2012 Chevy-Powered Daytona Prototypes in the Rolex Series. 

I take back every doubt or slam ever uttered about sports car racing owned and operated by  NASCAR.  This car looks great.  The manufacturer –specific visual concept is going to work, just like it does in Cup, NNS and trucks to built interest and expand the fan base.  I can’t wait to see what Ford reveals to clearly reference … what?  The Mustang?  The Focus? (Naaah.) The Fusion?  What will Ganassi  or BMW come up with for their cars?  Are there any Porsche-powered cars left now that Action has become a bow tie team?

That was Tuesday.  It was the best of times.

On Wednesday I felt like the Dickens when I scanned the latest F1 headlines on SPEED:  Ecclestone – Austin Race Set To Be Called Off and US GP Now In Doubt, (Texas State Comptroller) Combs Letter Promised Advanced Payment for Austin Race.

For F1 fans, this is the worst of times.

I’ve been worried about the Austin F1 race at the new Circuit of the Americas ever since it was announced because I didn’t believe Uncle Sam’s international reputation, to say nothing of what we see when we look in the mirror, couldn’t take another hit after the USF1 Team fiasco.

Yet here we are again.

As I understand this, Tevo Helmund negotiated the deal as the race promoter which involved a money group headed by billionaire Rex McComb to help develop the property .  The whole project was based on a $25 million dollar per year commitment from the Lone Star state, with the first payment promised by July 31 of this year. 

The check didn’t arrive, payment deadlines were missed, the race date was bumped four months and suddenly there were reports of rancor between Helmund and the developers even as construction of the very expensive but clearly first class Herman Tilke –designed track and facility complex had begun.

This threesome gone bad apparently still has a couple of weeks to get their act together before F1 officially toe tags the race.  I don’t know what kind of arrangement misunderstandings have caused the rift between the promoter and the track developers but I’ll bet the fact that the $25 million, which was promised in writing, is now being withheld until after next year's hanging-by-a-thread race has a lot to do with it.

The race contract between Helmund’s Full Throttle Productions and Formula 1 has been cancelled and the track wants to renegotiate with Ecclestone, good luck with that, rather than accept a simple transfer of the agreement. 

You’d think their existing investment in the new Circuit of the Americas track would be so great they really have no choice other than to make this work.

But I don't have a lot of optimism.  So I will look forward to the first Grand-Am test session featuring the new DPs in January and the 50th running of the Rolex 24 a few weeks later and just wait and see what happens with the Austin deal.

Wait.  And hope.