June 7, 2013

New Jersey gets serious

Grand Prix of America promoter Leo Hindery Jr was prominent in the paddock on Friday © Sutton Images

Was it the farce that was the run-up to the first Korean Grand Prix in 2010 that led to a general loss of faith in new races, or has Formula One had a long-term problem with its debutantes?

As a rookie journalist in 2010, I elected to skip the Korean event as I couldn’t afford to commit to the cost of a non-refundable plane ticket for a race that looked like it might not happen. At the time, paddock colleagues confessed they could not remember a new event with worse pre-press. The track was homologated about five minutes before the race started, breaking all established precedents (and bending a few FIA regulations in the process).

Since Korea, every new race has been subjected to news stories claiming the event won’t go ahead.

In 2011, the big news surrounding the Indian Grand Prix was the tax furore which, if unresolved, would have seen the teams and drivers paying income tax to the Indian government for the four days they had spent working in the country. The circuit was still being built when the F1 circus rolled into town, but the race was a success and Buddh hasn’t looked back.

Austin – which in hindsight was probably the most successful debut race in F1 history – was also subject to media scare stories. There were the financial issues, the hasty (and lawsuit-tinged) departure of Tavo Hellmund, and millions of pieces about the Texas Major Events Fund, the inevitable traffic chaos, and the shortage of hotel rooms.

And then there was New Jersey, which should be making its debut next week. Except that it got knocked off the calendar last year when it became clear that money problems weren’t going to fix themselves in time to make the race possible.

The delay was seen by many to be a cancellation, the inevitable outcome of race organisers attempting to play chicken with Bernie Ecclestone. And no one plays chicken with Bernie and wins.

But construction work continued unabated along the Hudson River, and this week the New Jersey race organisers have been a very visible presence in the Montreal paddock. The message is simple: New Jersey is on.

After months of silence from the Grand Prix of America, today has seen a flurry of press releases from the organisers, who have poached Marty Hunt, formerly director of facilities at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. Hunt will be joining the Jersey team as director of race operations.


Posted by Matthew on 25/06/2013

You guys are a*******s! The fact is, Kate is 100% right - Austin was the most successful debut F1 race in the history of F1 - and I've been around long enough to know. Adelaide 1985? Are you kidding? That was back when you read about GPs in a magazine (like Autosport) to get your info. Austin was so much more than 1985 Adelaide...

And Long Beach was an absolute rubbish track.

Posted by Kate Walker on 09/06/2013

Thomas - One of the qualifications for a career in journalism (inside or outside of F1) is basic reading comprehension.

I mentioned traffic in a long list of *pre-race* Austin media scare stories. You obviously missed the bit where I called the GP the most successful debut in F1 history...

Posted by C McGoo on 09/06/2013

Wow, you guys can be so harsh. If only you read the article properly.

@Thomas, you will see Kate was referring to the media scare stories at the time, she was not implying there was traffic chaos.

@Dean, Kate clearly states she's only been doing this a few years. Do you really expect her be able to research a subjective term like "the most successful debut" across 60 years of racing? She prefixed it with "probably" too.

@Kate, I find your perspective and articles on F1 very interesting and entertaining. In fact you and Joe Saward are the only bloggers/journo's I have bookmarked because you both give a better insight into F1 than I find from the more household names.

Posted by Eyes on the ground in NJ on 09/06/2013

I live down the block from the "proposed" NJ "race venue." The construction, what a joke, it's a parking garage. The roads, not in great shape for road cars. The political will to get this done, the mayor of West New York was arrested last November.

The real story here is Bernie leveraging a possible NJ race to get more from other legitimate venues and Leo getting a pit pass at Montreal. Bottom line is don't worry about a 21 race calendar, just like I'm sure Bernie isn't because NJ is not happening, even as much as I'd like it to.

Posted by Thomas Jackson on 08/06/2013

Yeah I dont comment very often, but last time I checked the Austin GP won sports event of the year in 2012. I personally went to the race and I take the note about traffic personally. We literally did not wait in traffic once. It was incredible. Best sporting event Ive ever been to in my life.

I swear I dont know what the credentials are to be one of these bloggers/"jounalists" on this website, but I would love to become one and give folks REAL insight to F1.

Posted by Flavio Parigi on 08/06/2013

Typical Ecclestone game. "We make a gp in N.Y and it will be the best gp of the world" After few months when they start to question about money to pay to him "Instead of make in NY I'm looking for other place like Long Beach". Then the money arrive on him bank account "I'm so happy about the hard work made in NY and it will be the best gp"

Posted by Kate Walker on 08/06/2013

Dean - I made the comment I did about Austin precisely because colleagues who were at the Adelaide debut said that Austin blew it out of the water. I might not have been around at the time, but I trust the opinions of those with 400-500 GPs to their name.

Posted by Brian on 08/06/2013

Oh well, might be interesting anyways but with Laguna Seca already in existance they would have been guaranteed an exciting track for the drivers and fans (and only costs of some modifications to meet F1 safety standards perhaps to perform). If they can come up with something like the original Long Beach layout with long straights, wide curves, tight hairpins then it could be a success.

Posted by Brian Traweek on 08/06/2013

We're seeing some promotion but precious little construction activity on the street circuit itself, and we're in the height of construction season in that part of the world. If you're going to stage a race in late June 2014, all of those Weehawken utilities that need to be moved, and all of those road crowns that need to be lowered and smoothed, and all that subgrade that needs to be ripped up and replaced, and all that surface that needs to be repaved, should be happening RIGHT NOW, people. I see a boatload of promoters in senior management, but where's the circuit construction activity? Where's the engineering? I hope we're not trying to believe that we're going to take F1 cars out there and run on the current road surface in Weehawken.

Posted by Dean Malone on 07/06/2013

You know, when a journalist makes a stupid comment like quote, "Austin – which in hindsight was probably the most successful debut race in F1 history” unquote, they haven’t been around for long or they haven’t researched before they put finger to the keys.

I suggest she look up the Australian Grand Prix held in Adelaide in 1985 and read what happened then and there and in all the following 10 Gps’ held there.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'. Kate Walker