Austin – the new Monaco
The Statesman, one of the main media sources for the Texas Capital city is reporting “Some international tour operators who specialize in Formula One race packages are hyping the 2013 United States Grand Prix and the vibrant Texas city of — San Antonio. Others are looking to book blocks of hotel rooms in San Marcos — “San Marvelous,” as one tour website referred to it. And a few tour operators have gone so far as not to offer an Austin hotel option for the Nov. 17 race, blaming the high prices Austin hotels charged last year for the city’s inaugural F1 Grand Prix week.”
John Sinker of English tour operator MotoExpress explains, “For some reason the hotels believed they could charge more than hotels in Monaco. They did not understand that F1 fans are very international and they think nothing about travelling around the world to watch races. However, if presented with a choice of going to the Monaco F1 and the Austin F1 and if Monaco is cheaper, they will go to Monaco every time.”
Marco van Veelen of South African based Grand Prix Tours says, “We stay in San Antonio as it is cheaper and their (hotels) are better.” Formula Tours, a Canadian operation, offers two San Antonio options as well as several Austin hotels. The company’s F1 package including the San Antonio Hyatt is slightly less (four days plus a Turn 12 seat, $1,799) than a similar one for a Holiday Inn Express in Austin (same package, $1,979).
Select Motor Racing, in the United Kingdom, has two hotel options in San Marcos, calling that town “the perfect place to play and stay” and noting that “San Marcos is just a short hop to circuit and avoids all the Austin traffic.”
The Statesman reveals, “Last year during F1 week, San Antonio hotels were markedly cheaper than Austin hotels. According to data supplied from Hotels for Hope, the booking partner of Circuit of the Americas, the average daily rate for Austin hotels that week was $393.69, while San Antonio hotels were at $184.20.
San Antonio hotels, fueled by thousands of visitors from Mexico, still made plenty of money during F1 week; revenue was up 40 percent over a similar time from the previous year, yielding about an additional $5 million, according to STR, an American company that tracks hotel supply and demand.
A representative with the Menger Hotel in San Antonio said MotoExpress booked about 20 rooms last year for F1 week. MotoExpress’ F1 package for 2013 includes a champagne cruise on the River Walk and a welcoming party in the Menger bar, a replica of London’s House of Lords Pub.
Sinker, apparently, is happy with those arrangements. “We will not give the Austin hotels a second chance,” he said.
I wonder who gave the Austin Hotel’s the idea they could charge Monaco prices? This is an extract from TJ13 article “Ecclestone, South Korea and the Emperor’s new clothes” written back in October 2012.
The marketing department of FOM can be very persuasive, they have a team of highly paid lawyers who approach potential new F1 hosts, often national and regional governments. The financial model they have built tells tales of unbridled economic wealth and treasures unbounded that will all flow as a result of hosting an F1 race. Billions, not millions of dollars are cited as the income that will be derived from the International prestige and tourism receipts over the life of an F1 contract.
I was musing in Judge’s Chambers about visiting Austin this year. After this news I suspect hotel prices will normalise – booking.com… here I come.
Forza Melbourne aeternum!!!
We may protest and poke fun at F1’s ageing dwarf leader, but you have to love him too. Melbourne F1 organisers and local government get a lot of stick every year for the cost and disruption F1 brings to the city – mostly from specialist Kangaroo breeders. On message and in support of his Aussie F1 brethren Mr. E announced today “We’re happy with Melbourne and I’d be happy to sign a 50-year contract,” reports the Australian GP’s Keeping Track podcast. “We don’t have a problem with Melbourne,” he added. “We hope we’re going to be in Melbourne forever.”
Ra Ra Ra.
F1 has been racing in Melbourne since 1996 when the previous Australian host city Adelaide withdrew. “Melbourne, in itself, is a nice place” observes Ecclestone – as he begins to ramble. What this could possibly mean other than ‘Melbourne is a nice place but is ruined by the people who live here’ – I’m not sure.
Anyway Bernie suggests if the Melburnians don’t like the F1 folk there are plenty of other Australian cities where the specialist Kangaroo breeders have little say. “We get proposals from other parts, but we’re happy in Melbourne,” Ecclestone insists. So if the city were to decide to reinvest the annual licensing fee they pay to FOM elsewhere – in Specialist Kangaroo Breeding Programmes for instance – No problemo!
The hosting fee of over $30m Aus is apparently “purely what the race costs” and is “the same as anywhere else in the world.” Mr. E explains how this figure is derived from the need to cover the costs of six jumbo jets full of freight transportation to bring the team’s cars, equipment and personnel halfway around the world.
At those prices I’m thinking of launching thejudge13 jumbo jet cargo services. At least our glorious leader is in buoyant form and nurse Boobyliscious has given him the right pills to start the day.
Mexico City – A GP born in conspiracy
Funny how you get day’s where the news flows as though scripted from the hand of God (Allah et al) himself (herself/itself). Today we have…Austin and F1 economics, Melbourne a circuit under/not under threat, Mexico City race threatens Austin GP…a circuit that may be under threat. I’m in the zone obviously.
COTA was built upon double dealing, back stabbing and outright theft. Yes, yes, yes… I hear you say – what’s new? This is F1. What is interesting – if not new – is that Ecclestone did the deal ultimately with some people he apparently despised and were not who he intially envisaged. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Bernie and Tavo Hellmund’s Father – Gustav – go way back to the days when Mr. E walked the same ground as the rest of humanity and was indeed then a mortal being. Gustav and ‘just Bernard’ worked together on a project to return F1 to Mexico in 1986.
Tavo Hellmund is a native of Austin, Texas, competed in the British Formula 3 Championships in 1995 and 1996, winning races the K&N Pro Series West and SCCA sanctioned events, including the Winston West race in 2001. In July 2010, Tavo Hellmund announced he had signed a deal with F1 in April to return the United States Grand Prix to the F1 schedule in 2012 and build a circuit in Austin, Texas.
Bernie was most supportive of this even though he had to be persuaded Austin wasn’t some hippie town in the middle of nowhere. Tavo of course needed investors, as it was clear from the outset that public money would be but a small contribution to the finance required to build the track and pay the F1 annual fees. The money men Tavo recruited were Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein and the plan was to agree a 10 year contract with F1 for them to see a return on their investment.
McCombs, a car dealer by trade, was listed by Forbes as the 913th richest man in the world in 2012, worth $1.4bn. He is not without controversy having attempted to build an entire ski resort but finding opposition from the United States Forrest Service for its environmental incompatibility. It may have been the idea to concrete entire mountainsides where the pisted runs were planned to ensure low maintenance cost that scuppered that one.Unperturbed, McCombs then moved on to a project to develop a 200km square Casino resort on Lake Powell. This was unanimously rejected as environmentally incompatible by all local authority bodies. The amount of concrete again was problematic.
So when Red discovered this strange foreign racing series called F1 – which needed mountains of concrete laying – he thought he had died and gone to heaven. Clearly this proposal was no environmental wolf in sheep’s clothing and so in collaboration with someone who understood the sport, he agreed to finance the COTA project.
During the final week of November 2011 the deal to hold an F1 race was suddenly in doubt (cf NY this year), and on the 28th . In a Q&A with Autoweek on the 28th November Ecclestone was asked, “Is it fair to say that you wouldn’t have given them the deal in the first place without that $25 million promised by the state that is now apparently off the table?”
Mr. E replied, “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”.
In another interview which you can read in full in TJ13 article ‘Law suit involving Austin GP promoters” Ecclestone speaks candidly on how Tavo had been ruthlessly cut out of the deal by McCombs and Epstein and this behaviour meant Ecclestone re-wrote the offer to them to host a race in far tougher terms than had been in Tavo’s contract.
Just the week before the race in Austin, McCombs and Epstein tried to have an exclusion injunction issued against Tavo to prevent him attending COTA and a TJ13 reader reported seeing huge billboard adverts around the track and the town saying ‘Get well soon Gustav’, paid for by Ecclestone – Tavo’s dad was battling cancer at the time and subsequently passed away in January this year,
Following qualifying in Austin another eagle eyed TJ13 operative spotted Carlos Slim Jnr, Tavo Helmund and Herman Tilke having a meeting at the Austin GP. We reported it in our post race review and that it screamed ‘Mexican GP’ like nothing else.
Over this weekend just gone, Bernie confirmed he is in discussions about holding a Mexican Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City in 2014. Autoweek reports that a previous proposal to hold the race at a venue in Cancun, a popular holiday destination on the country’s eastern coast, had failed.
“Mexico City is a better place to hold the race than Cancun,” said Ecclestone. Nurse Boobyliscious clearly excelled herself on the morning’s selection of pills for our glorious leader as he then astutely remarks, “In more or less any city around the world you could ask people ‘where is Mexico City?’ and they would say ‘Mexico’….. If you said to somebody ‘where is Cancun?’ they would say ‘I don’t know.’”
If you could see what happened between me typing the last sentence and this one – you might be concerned for my mortal worth. But I am now fine (this is several hours later – deep breath). The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City – Mexico, previously held F1 races from 1963-70 and from 1986-1992. It has since held A1 Grand Prix and Champ Car races (pictured).
Among those reported to be behind the plan to bring F1 back to Mexico is Tavo Hellmund, Alejandro Soberon who is the chief executive of live entertainment company CIA group and Carlos Sliim Domit – FIA Senate member Carlos Slim Domit, who is also a patron of the Asociacion Mexicana Automovilistica (Mexican Automobile Association) and son of the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu.
But Ecclestone denies Helu will fund the race: “Everybody thinks that Carlos Slim is going to pay the bills for the race but I know he’s not”. Helu is the chairman of Telmex, which backed the career of Sergio Perez and has now backed Estaban Guitierrez for an F1 drive which means we have 2 Mexican drivers competing in F1 for the first time in 45 years.
Ominously for Texas Red and Bobby, the old fox then comments. “I should think that half the people who went to Austin are Mexican. There is absolutely a lot of potential in Mexico”. Pitpass – Bernie’s mouthpiece for thought and opinion – take this further suggesting the two Grand Prix would be paired – as back to back events.
It is a short haul flight of around 90-100 mins from Austin to Mexico City and some estimates had the Mexican representation at COTA as high as 1/3rd of all in attendance. It could be that the ‘Mexican’ fans were in fact naturalised Hispanic-American’s now resident in Texas; however the high cost of attending COTA would appear prohibitive to most Hispanic workers in the USA.
I nearly went to the Austin GP last year and I think I’m going to try to be there this year because I love the circuit layout and it seems F1 people staying in the Texas State Capital (or surrounding less expensive towns) had a lot of fun. There is also a sense of urgency within me to go to the F1 Austin event before it’s best days are over.
The future of F1 racing in Texas is by no means secure and even if the weekend is retained on the calendar, will there be many fans in attendance in the future? Another reason for me to go is I love visiting the USA and being paid a huge amount of attention for my accent. Further, any excuse for HOP pancakes and maple syrup or even a down and dirty ‘Dennys’ breakie – T-Bone Steak with eggs – has to be considered. STEAK? BREAKFAST? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!