AUSTIN, Texas, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The construction of the racetrack that will host next year’s Grand Prix in Austin was suspended on Tuesday because of a contractual dispute between Formula One officials, the Texas race promoters and the circuit builders.
The abrupt stoppage came just three days after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters that he had his doubts about whether the race would go ahead next year because of problems between those involved in constructing the circuit and promoting the race.
More than 300 people have been working at the site near the Lone Star state capital and construction officials said they were on track to complete the facility before the race was due to go ahead in November next year.
But officials from the Circuit of The Americas said the workers had been told to stop work and down tools indefinitely because they were still waiting on an official contract from Formula One.
“We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern,” Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of The Americas, said in the statement.
“We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula One and its teams and sponsors.”
Red McCombs, another founding partner, said it was crucial for everyone involved that an agreement was reached.
“It is in the best interest of all parties to reach a timely resolution. Local businesses, fans and the State of Texas are counting on us.”
In a separate announcement, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, confirmed that public funds would not be used to be pay for the development of the track.
“Let me state clearly: We have not paid out any money for the Formula One event,” Susan Combs said in a statement.
“The only dollars that can be spent on the United States Grand Prix are tax revenues attributable to the successful running of a race. The state of Texas will not be paying any funds in advance of the event.”
The United States last hosted a Formula One race at Indianapolis in 2007, but Ecclestone has long been seeking a new venue to bring the sport back to one of their biggest markets.
In 2010, Ecclestone announced that a purpose-built circuit would be constructed near Austin and would host the U.S. Grand Prix until 2021.
But speculation about the fate of the race has continued ever since and intensified with last month’s announcement that a second Grand Prix on American soil would be held against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline for 10 years from 2013.
“The recent announcement of an annual Formula One race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race, thereby decreasing the economic impact,” Combs said.
“Additionally, the reports of a slowdown in construction at the Circuit of the Americas, and recently publicized disagreements between the race rights-holder and the circuit developers have prompted speculation about whether the Austin race will even occur.”
Editing by Julian Linden; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com