Formula None : Is Austin Cruisin’ For a Bruisin’?

UPDATED JULY 2, 2010

Formula One racing: coming your way. Photo from Business Week.

Controversy brewing:
Is Formula One the right fit?

By Stefan Wray / The Rag Blog / June 30, 2010

AUSTIN — If I told you I hated fast cars, I’d be making a liar out of myself. Powerful engines and high speeds give nearly everyone an adrenalin rush. I’m no exception. And yet while I’m not much of a car racing fan, I can see how the sport can grab people’s attention.

But this business of bringing Formula One racing to Austin has left me and an increasing number of Austinites questioning whether this is the right thing for our city. More and more of us are deciding that it is not.

For those with no clue as to what I’m talking about, Formula One is the crème de la crème of automobile racing. Today’s F1 cars race at speeds topping 220 miles per hour. With a 60-year history, the first Formula One World Championship was held in Europe in 1950.

Starting in the 1970s, Formula One’s iconic and controversial president and CEO, Bernie Ecclestone, has turned it in a multi-billion dollar business and now an elite sport for the rich and famous.

For several years, Ecclestone had been looking for a U.S. location for Formula One for the 2012 through 2021 race seasons. After first being rebuked by New Jersey, it was announced on May 25, 2010, that a deal had been struck for Austin to be this site.

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone / LAT Photographic / Speed TV.

The story received front page news coverage when it broke and the decision has been heralded by F1 racing aficionados on blogs and racing fan web sites all over the Internet. Local and state politicians have given this much fanfare and are enthusiastic about a perceived economic benefit for the city.

I had an immediate, visceral, reaction to the announcement and quickly shot off a letter to the Mayor and City Council that was also published in the Austin Chronicle. In the letter, I argued that the City should conduct a carbon footprint and environmental impact study before situating Formula One here.

To me, it seemed incongruous that a “green” city such as Austin, with such an emphasis on pursuing renewable energy and efforts aimed at energy conservation, would be a location for Formula One. I wrote: “Future generations will laughingly look back at us and ponder why we moved forward with the construction of a car racetrack near the end of the era of the gasoline-powered combustion engine.”

Not long after that, David Kobierowski wrote a piece about Formula One that was published in the Austin Post. David’s line of thinking focused not on anything wrong, per se, with Formula One but that it is a sport better suited for perhaps Dallas or Las Vegas. He wrote: “There are some good reasons for F1 in TX like it’ll bring some jobs and international flavor/tourism. But overall, this is not a wise fit for Austin.”

I just came home from the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi and when I asked a few in the Austin delegation what they thought about Formula One coming to their city, there were similar reactions to David’s sentiment. People say that it just doesn’t feel like Austin.

In mid June, David and I started a Facebook group — Concerned About Formula One (F1) Racing Coming to Austin — where we’ve started to post information about Formula One and where we’re starting to gather other people.

At the same time, the Austin American Statesman began to dig into some of the secrecy that surrounds the deal to bring Formula One to Austin.

It turns out that this plan has been in the works for several years. It’s been largely driven by the Republican-led State Comptroller’s office. But legislation introduced by Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson in March 2009 laid the groundwork for using state money for initial funding.

It is the use of $25 million in public monies to help underwrite some of the start up costs, and the slowly revealed information about how this deal has been constructed, that has other constituencies questioning the entire affair.

Interestingly, some of what David and I have easily been able to find by simple Google searches has yet to make it into the Austin American Statesman’s reporting.

One example is the readily available reports regarding Bernie Ecclestone’s praise for Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Amazingly, in a 2009 interview, Ecclestone said that Hitler “could command a lot of people” and was “able to get things done.”

We’ve not seen anything in Austin media about the character and mindset of Ecclestone.

Just this weekend there were a couple more Austin American Statesman articles on Formula One. One dealt with how a sizable amount of generated revenue will actually leave the state and go to a California retirement fund. The Statesman writer concludes: “Time will tell whether Formula One is worth the price to Texas.”

Missing in Austin media, though, was an announcement that came out in an AP story on June 24, that the United States Formula One team had been banned from competition in Formula One. The AP story said: “The USF1 Formula One team has been fined and barred from ever competing in F1 for not taking part in the 2010 world championship.”

Why on earth would Austin want to construct a Formula One racetrack if the U.S. team is not involved?

It appears that the more we know about the effort to bring Formula One racing to Austin, the worse the idea becomes.

But, just because there is nascent public criticism and the daily paper is raising doubts, this doesn’t automatically translate into the plan being tossed out.

If you’re a Rag Blog reader and for whatever reason don’t like the idea of Formula One racing coming to Austin, then join us on our Facebook group — and add a comment at the end of this article. We may out of necessity move beyond Facebook, but that’s where our effort is at the moment.

[Stefan Wray is a writer, environmental activist, Drupal web project manager, documentary maker, and resident of Austin’s Montopolis neighborhood.]

UPDATE

I submitted this piece for publication several days prior to my appearance on a Austin’s 91.7 FM KOOP Radio’s program “A Neighborly Conversation” hosted by David Kobierowski. Some people commenting on this piece [see comments below] are assuming I wrote it after the radio program because of what is written about a U.S. team that is now banned from competition. On the radio program this team was discussed.

In reference to what had been reported in an AP story on June 24 I wrote above that “the United States Formula One team had been banned.” I should have written “a” instead of “the.” This is because at present the U.S. doesn’t have a national team. So, technically it is not “the” U.S. team, it is “a” U.S. team.

However, based on the wording of the AP story that appeared in Sports Illustrated, which said “The USF1 Formula One team has been fined and barred from ever competing in F1,” I think it may be easy to see how one could make that minor error on first pass. But I stand corrected.

It is important to note, however, that this team — called U.S. F1 — was the only team from the United States that was intent on competing in Formula One and that now with its ban, the United States has no team, national or otherwise, in the competition.

In a June 30 article by Berthold Bouman in Motorsport.com, the author writes, “Although American fans still had some hope about the return of U.S. F1 in 2011, the FIA World Motor Sport Council has now made an definitive end to the aspirations of the all-American Formula One team. The U.S. F1 team had now been banned from Formula One and was fined 309,000 Euro for failing to compete in this year’s championship.”

It is an “all-American Formula One team,” but not an officially recognized national team. According to the Motorsport.com story U.S. F1 failed because its sponsors held back their payments.

Stefan Wray / July 2, 2009

The Rag Blog

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35 Responses to Formula None : Is Austin Cruisin’ For a Bruisin’?

  1. Pollyanna says:

    Right on Stefan — shades of the old Town Lake boat races, this is something we don’t need.

    What sustainable employment opportunities would result from F1 racing? Parking lot attendant? Flunky in another over-priced hotel? This deal needs to be quashed now.

  2. Speed Racer says:

    Stefan,

    You should know as well as anyone after the radio show yesterday, that the US F1 team is not a national team in any way, shape or form. Formula One has not banned the United States from competing in F1, only the team that chose to name themselves US F1. US F1 broke a legally binding contract with FIA Formula One at the proverbial last second and as a result have been banned from competing. Nothing is stopping GM from building a team, or from the US government from building a team, or for that matter, stopping you from building a team. It just that Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson and the organization currently known as “US F1” cannot build a team a compete.

    I would expect a writer such as yourself, who wishes to influence people to his side to do at least a little preliminary research.

  3. Sondra says:

    Stefan, didn’t we cover this yesterday at KOOP?

    To level your aim at F1 as a polluter event, one must also do the same for SXSW, something you were loathe to do on the show. The event draws almost an identical number of people to the area, as does ACL! Should we tell everyone who arrives in Austin for a major event via some oil-burning mechanism that they aren’t welcome here? Something tells me that tourism and business growth in Austin would plummet, and we would be branded the world’s worst xenophobes in short order.

    The USF1 team was no more a United States sponsored team than Austin Land and Cattle is a City owned restaurant. “USF1” was the name some racing entrepreneur chose to call their team, and they did this without the blessings or involvement of anyone in US government. If they had been legally representing the USA, I doubt there would have been a last minute dropout of the racing series, placing them in a position of legal reprehension (fines and banishment from the series). Would you ask someone back to do business with you who left you high and dry at the eleventh hour?

    Finally, how did you get to the studio yesterday, Stefan? For all of your talk about “only necessary, essential use of oil,” I noticed that you drove your oil-burning car to the studio, which no one can argue is not essential, necessary use when there are bikes and buses available for that purpose.

  4. sberry says:

    Stefan,

    The argument for or against F1 in Austin is best examined by comparing it to the ACL festival or SXSW or ROTR rally. It’s grasping to make a general environmental argument or continue comparing it to a festival that happened here decades ago. The cars lapping the track do produce emissions and burn lots of fuel but it’s not going to blow a hole in the ozone over Austin. This race will happen /somewhere/ and we currently have the unique opportunity to have it held here.

    F1 is a high-tech cutting-edge sport that has seriously advanced technologies such as regenerative braking, lean burning engines, aerodynamic breakthroughs and use of composites and ceramics in automobiles. Throwing around the term ‘elite’ is appropriate in terms of the caliber of the jobs and engineering talent this will bring to our town (during a recession), but it’s a disingenuous Palin’ism to use the term to categorically disparage the fans or organization. It’s hard to argue against having thousands of wealthy Europeans tourists travel to our city each year.

    The economic impact will be substantial and will come with caveats in terms of infrastructure demands and tax revenues, just like any new business that comes to the area. We can’t all be cheerleaders for the event but lets at least keep the facts straight and soberly debate the advantages and disadvantages of bringing this race here.

    When I think of Austin I think of the high levels of personal, professional and academic excellence demonstrated in our population. F1 is the best of the best and that “feels like Austin” to me.

    steve berry
    SW Austin

  5. Jon says:

    There’s none so deaf as he who will not hear. Or to put it another way: never let the facts stand in the way of a good knee-jerk.

  6. Dan says:

    A Facebook page? That’s how you’re fighting this? You’ll probably need to grow your army, perhaps enroll MySpace, too?

    Come on Stefan, open your mind. Motorsports will not go away, and then to inject ‘Terrorism’ as another reason?

    really now.

  7. jndale says:

    If the aim is to make positive improvements, wouldn’t it make sense to bring F1 as close as possible so you can have a positive impact? If it’s shunned from here it will go elsewhere and you won’t be able to have any impact at all!

    I think Austin is a great fit for both the amazing engineering that is F1 as well as for the green crowd. In fact, just today there were 2 great articles that echoed this perfectly. First, GM announced that they are adding Austin to the short list of places where they will be selling the Chevy Volt – seems like they realize we like cars and also being green. Also, F1 announced that they are making a new push into fuel economy for the upcoming season. Don’t forget the importance in racing of being able to squeeze every lap out of a tank of gas and avoid time-wasting fill-ups.

    http://i.autobloggreen.com/2010/07/01/formula-one-teams-want-to-cut-emissions-and-fuel-consumption/

    http://i.autobloggreen.com/2010/07/01/general-motors-adds-new-york-and-austin-tx-to-chevy-volt-launch/

  8. Anonymous says:

    There would be no “green” anything if it weren’t for motorsports. They have and always will be at the forefront of automotive technology. F1 is welcomed in my town, where I have resided for over 40 years. I’m getting sick and tired of people who move in from other areas and claim they know what is best for the town. If some do not like it, maybe they should re-locate to a biosphere of some sort with their own utopia and live off of nuts and fruit. I choose to buy a beer, sit down with friends, and watch a race.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I wonder why these comments remind me so much of the NRA ….

  10. I detest the idea of forumla one racing in austin – looks like I’m in the minority. But then again, I’ve lived here for forty-five years (my entire life) so I don’t count.
    NOISE, POLLUTION, SUBSIDIES up the wazoo that SHOULD be going to local businesses that actually provide some sort of sustainable ethic to our “green” city (yea, right, austin is a laughing stock saying it’s a green city with a formula one race track!), more NOISE and stupidity as the waste of gasoline is not used for transportation but quite literally running around in circles til your pants catch on fire… Formula One is idiotic, and so is austin for giving away our tax base to such narcissistic enterprise.
    Imo, Facebook will use your info to stab you in the back so I won’t be joining the movement… but I do certainly support it.

  11. Donald in Austin says:

    Re: “Anonymous” and their NRA remark…

    Nice try at yet another non-sequitur, an attempt at winning an argument by something akin to Godwin’s Law.

    Mr. Wray repeated items on his blog that he was factually corrected on during the radio show of June 30. I.e.:

    USF1 is NOT the US racing team. This isn’t the Olympics, so such a concept doesn’t apply.

    Mr. Wray misrepresents Ecclestone’s remarks regarding Saddam and Hitler. The subject matter at hand was that the two of them didn’t have to deal with group think or getting decisions made by a committee. When you have to deal with petty, spiteful lawsuits and people standing in the way because they don’t like something, progress is slowed to a crawl and little gets accomplished.

    From the “pollution” aspect: Countries that are far more environmentally conscious than Austin have been hosting F1 racing since its inception. The “environmental impact study” was, at best, a red herring. This doesn’t even begin to address the engineering limitations of so-called “green energy” or the contributions to the automotive industry from the F1 programs and the charitable contributions of those dastardly “elitists” to local causes.

    There is actually too much biased misinformation and misleading statements to fully and accurately debunk all of it in this response, so I’ll just have let the rest of them go.

    Furthermore, comparing modern F1 to the boat races of the late 70s is as laughable as comparing the Kentucky Derby to the Buda Weiner Dog Races.

    Now, if you’re saying that the NRA uses an abundance of facts to refute dishonest and itellectually lazy arguments, then you may be on the right path, though I doubt that such was your intent.

    On the other hand, continuing to repeat something that is factually untrue, or to fabricate “facts” that support your preconceived notion sounds more like something from the Texas SBOE.

    Formula 1 racing is not the evil implied by Mr Wray’s “visceral reaction.” He doesn’t like it, so he distorts the facts and logic to support his preconceived notions.

    But I repeat myself.

  12. Leslie C. says:

    Wow! F1 fans have certainly marshaled their forces here.
    Most people I know are more concerned with $25 million in State tax money going to F1 every year for 10 years.
    State budget crisis? State worker & retiree health care benefits being cut? State services reduced or eliminated? Need for “shared sacrifice” (to quote my state rep, Mark Strama)? Not, it seems, when the “leaders” of our government want to hand out large numbers of $$ to already rich people.
    Jobs? Just how many permanent, good-paying full-time jobs with benefits will we get out of this? Like Pollyanna, I see mostly part-time and seasonal service jobs.

  13. Mike says:

    There are a lot of things here that are being talked about in the grander scheme of things. There is more pollution that is created in 1 day of Austin commuting then will be created by one race weekend. If the green initiative was really the focus then there should be more attention paid to improving Austin’s public transportation system that was recently rated one of the worse in the nation for a city it’s size and improving the walkability index of the city with higher density living centralized shopping hubs. There are many large events already in Austin that are of a similar or greater impact as this event. These include those that have been mentioned already like ROT, SXSW, ACL, Longhorn Football games,and many other events that happen on many weekends in Austin.

    One thing that isn’t mentioned is the amount of money donated to local charities. It amounts to over $1 million from the recent event in Canada.

    I understand the long time residents of Austin not wanting change in their city but this is not the Austin of 15 years ago. It’s more of a technology hub than a green city. It’s hard to call Austin a green city when over half the residents drive SUV’s and there is no reliable transportation alternatives to the automobile. It doesn’t hold a candle to many European cities or even progressive cities like Portland in the US.

    This event will showcase the true heart and soul of Austin and that is a place of innovation and technology that throws an event better than any other city in Texas.

  14. Jon says:

    Leslie repeats another specious argument, that $25M of State money will be “going” to F1 each year. Au contraire, this “hand out” will be more than offset by the tax windfall immediately attributable to the Formula One race alone, let alone any extra events that use the facility each year, or new businesses attracted by it.

    The state coffers will see an annual net gain of several million dollars (without even considering the intangible benefits of putting Austin on the world stage), which is precisely why this incentive scheme was hatched in the first place.

  15. Sondra says:

    @My little life, I could see your point if that money was previously part of Austin’s budget or would otherwise be spent on Austin causes, but this is money out of the State budget. If not for spending it to get F1 here, it would likely go somewhere other than Austin, since the purpose of the Special Events fund is to get NEW events to the state.

    Pollution: the carbon footprint of this event will be almost identical to that of SXSW. I’ve said it multiple times already, but why isn’t that event under fire? For those of us not terribly interested in music festivals, the same arguments you’re using against F1 could be used against SXSW, but I don’t see all of the eco-interested folks walking lockstep against that.

    Noise: the track will be far away from current areas of residence. If you want to call something out on noise, let’s talk about ROT. There is no escaping it, and I leave town every year rather than deal with that noise.

    As for subsidies, good business sense understands that you have to spend money to make money, and Austin in particular stands to make a LOT of money on this. I’m not all that happy about the current lack of transparency, but I understand why the money is being committed to bringing this event here.

    This is pretty much a done deal. I hope that once that’s apparent to everyone, we can work together to try to influence F1 management to further their efforts toward efficiency, sensitivity, and pollution reduction measures. If you can’t beat ’em, why not join them and TRY to affect a positive change?

  16. CraigB says:

    Stefan, you wonder out loud why the Statesman hasn’t mentioned Ecclestone’s intemperate comments about Hitler and Saddam. Perhaps it’s because that would break the rules of decorum in debate? It’s right there in Robert’s Rules of Order [43]: “It is not the man, but the measure, that is the subject of debate.”

    You’ve given little support for your position against a F1 track but a collection of vigorously asserted opinions. So far, the “U.S. team” isn’t, the “end of the gasoline engine” isn’t any closer than 50+ years ago when that rumor started, and terrorism risk…well, don’t hold your breath waiting for Stratfor to call. Your position reduces to “F1 doesn’t belong in Austin because we say it doesn’t.”

    If Facebook is any measure (111 members in your group, 957 in the one in favor), you’ve got some catching up to sell your point of view. Intellectually honest tactics and factual support would be a start.

  17. Anonymous says:

    There is some lively chat here, and that is great. Mr. Wray – Please keep in mind that “racing” in any form is a human endeavor based on our desire for competition. There will always be “races”, no matter what the form. Racing takes on many forms: Foot, bike, boat, horse, etc. It is recorded back to the dawn of history. If Austin builds a world-class F1 race track during the “end of the combustion engine”, don’t you think that the facility could be used for other potential venues in the future? Why not “green” races? Let’s keep an open mind here.

    Also, a comment to the first post. There are a LOT of folks unemployed out there that would gladly take a Parking Lot attendant or “flunky” job in a hotel. I am one of those that was negatively affected by the “great recession”, and am currently thrilled to be making 1/3 the salary I was making in 2008. Don’t you dare say that we don’t need jobs in Austin … no matter what the pay or perceived “stature” of the position. Economics is dynamic … every job counts to the greater good of the entire area’s economy.

  18. Chris says:

    Some environmentally unconcerned folks are not hearing the real issue with Formula 1 as an agent of pollution. Unlike SXSW, ACL and even ROT the race itself promotes disastrous behavior that projects excess oil consumption. I do not oppose economic growth, I support it with a conscience. The sponsors and participants of Formula One are aiming at increased sales of their brands, in particular, their performance cars. That is why the manufacturers with a realistic view of the future market for their products have left Formula 1, Honda and BMW have left Formula 1 to Ferrari, Lotus, Mercedes Benz, Renault, and Cosworth.
    Sponsors remaining include BP’s Castrol Oil. F1 is so beholden to the internal combustion engine and Big Oil that the rules governing cars and fuels allowed are devoted to excessive consumption of oil, gas, and the most inefficient automobiles as measured by sane legal passenger car uses.
    If Formula 1 was a test bed of automotive technology it would include technologies found in base model hybrids like hybrid technology and regenerative braking. Instead limited efforts to embrace needed advancements are rebuked by the majority of the remaining F1 manufacturers even when incorporated into the rules as in the case of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems which are allowed but unused by gentleman’s agreement among the Constructors.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Interesting debate…however many of the negatives that are expressed here seem to linger on ‘short’ term concerns.

    F1 at it’s worst is the most innovative racing program in the world. The technologies, concepts and design ideas in F1 do have an impact in the auto-industry and ALL manufacturers that play there will tell you that the ideas and concepts impact their daily operations, and technologies. There is no way they can’t and one reason they continue to play.

    Why are some teams(manufacturers) missing? The mighty $$$. It is VERY expensive to play in F1 and rightfully so. Those that lack the funding in today’s economy obviously cannot play and sponsorship has changed over the years…naturally cycle(possible?). Not sure that is anything to pick at…just simple economics.

    IMO the big picture is to support ‘international’ sports. The world will be a better place if we all play together and ‘get-along’.

    F1 in the US, let alone in Austin, would be simply wonderful for everyone concerned, not to mention the ‘international’ spirit and racing community.

    Long Live F1 and hope it makes it to Austin! The folks that surround it and support it are FANTASTIC folks.

    Austin should be ALL-IN on this one. This opportunity will not come again!

  20. Pollyanna says:

    What about the farmland?? Won’t someone mention the lost farmland??

    Re employment: I, too, am seriously underemployed, but it is the type of employment F1 could bring to Austin I’m concerned about. We need manufacturing jobs to turn the economic crisis around, not more service jobs that essentially contribute to our trade deficit.

    Well, what about the jobs in the auto industry that might be kept through the success of US F1 racing? Dinosaurs, my dears; we don’t need more “high performance engines”, but more effective means of transportation.

    Some folks make a good point about the carbon footprint of other events such as SxSW, ROT, and ACL. However, for at least two of those events, organizers are and have been making concerted efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling, etc.; is there any such commitment from the mysterious F1 promoters? And, if our area is already hosting so many big-footprint events, why would we willingly add another?

    Most disturbing is the claim that if the track isn’t built here, it will go elsewhere, so we should allow it here. If someone wanted to build an oil refinery downtown, and if it wasn’t built there it would “go elsewhere”, what would you think?

    I still call it a bad deal for Austin and its neighbors.

  21. Speed Racer says:

    Pollyanna, it is very likely that the F1 track will bring a lot more jobs than just “service jobs”. One only has to visit the otherwise sleepy town of Nurburg in Germany to see what a world class track can do for one’s economy. If the track wasn’t there, the town would be a small nothing town in between Köln and Frankfurt am Main. As it is, it hosts events year round, from concerts and bike races to F1, and the tourism is practically non stop. Most major auto manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers, and tire manufacturers have a permanent facility used for testing and development. Some of the testing is for performance cars, but some of it is also for testing of other green technologies such as the all-electric Mini-E and Chevrolet Volt. It would be foolish to believe that a world class facility such as an F1 track would only be used for F1 and only once per year.

    It also appears that the auto industry is moving towards other technologies besides burning fossil fuels. It would be folly to believe that multi-billion dollar industries are just going to close up shop because gasoline is expensive. Even if gasoline completely dries up, they will figure out a way to continue selling personal transportation. Wishing for the end of the auto industry is not only absurd, it would be disastrous for our economy.

    F1 is currently trying to become greener, and is the greenest racing we currently have. They’ve even started Formula Zero, which races cars that don’t use any fossil fuels. It may be a “wasteful” use of fuel to go racing, but the engines currently used in F1 are the most efficient on the planet — and that technology trickles down into consumer cars. The reason your Honda Civic gets such good gas milage is because of technologies — such as overhead cams, variable valve timing, and regenerative braking — pioneered in Formula One.

    Our problem with the ecological argument is that if you’re wanting to ban F1 simply on the ecological impact, why are you not campaigning equally as loudly against things like SXSW, which makes an equally large dent in the earth? It is intellectually dishonest to gleefully enjoy your own ecologically damaging past time while denouncing those that choose a different one. I would ask you, if you’re so against big-footprint events, why are you for having any of them?

  22. Speed Racer says:

    Sorry. This was returning an error. I did not realize it was posting and reposting my comment. Please delete any duplicates, as I’m not able to do so.

  23. Anonymous says:

    “What about the farmland?” Please. Show me a farm in the area under consideration, and I’ll show you a landowner who’s running just enough livestock to maintain an Ag exemption until the right buyer comes along.

    Well guess what, here comes that buyer; watch the “farmers” take the money and run.

  24. Mike says:

    I’m not sure why the arguement is in place that BMW and Honda left due to the anything other than the almighty dollar. Here is a quote from BMW. Dr. Klaus Draeger, the member of the Board of Management responsible for development, said: “It only took us three years to establish ourselves as a top team with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet expectations in the current season. Nevertheless, our ten years of Formula One experience have had a major impact on our development engineers. We have racing to thank for numerous technological innovations as well as the competitive spirit that drives us to develop mass-produced cars.”

    With the changes in the F1 rules entering into this year, they were no longer able to reap the ROI on racing that they would have in years past. Combine that with dismal performances in 2009 in which they struggled to produce a successful race team.

    Here is the official release from Honda when they withdrew in 2008 From Takeo Fukui, “His difficult decision has been made in light of the quickly deteriorating operating environment facing the global auto industry, brought on by the sub-prime problem in the United States, the deepening credit crisis and the sudden contraction of the world economies.

    Honda must protect its core business activities and secure the long term as widespread uncertainties in the economies around the globe continue to mount. A recovery is expected to take some time.

    Under these circumstances, Honda has taken swift and flexible measures to counter this sudden and expansive weakening of the marketplace in all business areas. However, in recognition of the need to optimize the allocation of management resources, including investment regarding the future, we have decided to withdraw from Formula One participation. We will enter into consultation with the associates of Honda Racing F1 Team and its engine supplier Honda Racing Development regarding the future of the two companies. This will include offering the team for sale.”

    Again, it had nothing to due with the sports environment factor. In both cases, it was a monetary decision to best utilized the companies resources. Both companies still have very active motorsports divisions competing outside formula one.

    I would understand the position on hybrids and EV’s if they didn’t consume more energy in manufacturing than they ever save in reduced gas usage. It’s a false environmental economy. The same goes for solar panels and hydrogen production. One of the few energy sources that it isn’t the case is oil, wind, water, and nuclear energy. Even those have their drawbacks in one way or another in the form of ecological changes.

    Do you know currently what the most ecological form of transportation is in the form of emissions per tonne moved? Rail And what do they burn in most cases? Diesel.

    Anyways,

    I have yet to see a good argument against this other than the state not releasing the details of the plans publicly. I guess with the environmental concerns in Austin we should shut down the 3 chip manufactures that burn Mega-watts of power a day each, All of the data centers in Austin that host these wonderful blogs but burn multi-millions of dollars in energy monthly, have everyone give up their Ipods, Laptops, and Cell Phones because the battery manufacturing and material mining is more harmful than oil production, on and of course everyone mount up on their trusty steed for the Monday morning gallop to work.

  25. Chris says:

    Mike’s BMW quote was missing the entire first paragraph concerning BMW’s strategic realignment and sustainability!

    BMW’s full quote began, “”Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it’s a resolute step in view of our company’s strategic realignment,” explained Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility. This is an area in which we want to remain in the lead. In line with our Strategy Number ONE, we are continually reviewing all projects and initiatives to check them for future viability and sustainability. Our Formula One campaign is thus less a key promoter for us. Mario Theissen has been in charge of our motor sports program since 1999. We have scored a large number of successes in this period, including some in Formula One racing. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mario Theissen and his team for this,” said, Reithofer.

  26. Chris says:

    Supporters of F1 somwhow ignore half of a quote to support their position, equate 4mpg single passenger cars with efficiency, piggy back Formula Zero as if Formula One were the same thing.

    Formula 1 is about V8s, 800 horsepower, and high test gasolineas those are in the rules.

    Formual Zero is about zero emissions.
    If this were exclusively about a zero emissions race track I would be a supporter. That would be cutting edge.

    I don’t oppose ACL, SXSW, or ROT because they do not exist to promote the sale of high performance gas guzzlers that dramatically increase the carbon footprint attributable to Formula 1 well beyond the race track.

    Formula 1 sponsors are primarily big oil companies including BP (Castrol Oil). Dubai and Malaysia are newer host nations. The manufacurers Ferrari, Lotus, Mercedes Benz, Cosworth are all about the sale of their high end gas guzzlers. Who knows why Renault is sill there.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The PC crowd appears to think that they are the ONLY green movement supporters out there…do you really think that the latest engine development (and yes cars are HERE TO STAY), would have moved as quickly as it did had it not been for the racing community (F1 for certain)? No way…

    Wonder why we have more reserves of gasoline at the moment? Might have something to do with efficiency (MPG) of newer vehicles.

    It’s not perfect but vehicles are NOT going away! Maybe we should support the efforts that breed innovation and technological leaps forward. 30 odd F1 cars are going to put a dent into your mpg figures to say the least.

    Chris, you’re touching on a HUGE topic, the least of which F1 is the problem or any issue (or something to blame). In fact I would beg to that quite the opposite is true. We should encourage such innovative minds (and yes, use F1 as the testing and playing grounds, among other forms of racing).

  28. Andy says:

    Regarding the possibility of an F1 venue in Austin’s proximity, I am writing to respond very specifically to the claim that “any big-time race track are very, very bad for air quality“.

    I don’t know how much fuel F1 cars use, so I went researching and here’s what I found:

    http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/understanding_the_sport/5280.html
    …a modern Formula One engine [has] race fuel consumption typically around the 75 l/100 km…

    That works out to 3.13 mpg. The F1 field this year has 24 cars (http://www.formula1.com/results/). Each F1 race is approximately 190 miles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formula_One#The_race). So for each race, assuming that EVERY car starts AND runs the entire race, the entire field uses approximately 1,520 gallons of fuel. (BTW, this fuel has the same components as consumer fuels: http://www.f1technical.net/articles/19.)

    Of course, there is qualifying. Even if we assume that each driver drives the highly unlikely distance of a whole race (190 miles) in qualifying, that brings the total to 3,040 gallons.

    Contrast to a UT Longhorns home game. The average attendance in 2009 is 81,720 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Texas_Longhorns_football_team). If we assume that on the average every four fans carpool together to the game, and that the average round trip length is 15 miles, that means 20,430 cars using 13,620 gallons of fuel commuting to and from each game. There were 13 home games in 2009.

    (Average fuel economy of all cars in the US in 2007: 22.5 mpg, http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_04_23.html.)

    If we assume that attendance at the Austin F1 is three times that of a Longhorns home game, with a comparable fuel consumption for the commute to the event, the Longhorn games result in four times as much fossil fuel consumed.

    And then there are other historic and/or beloved and/or iconic Austin events: SXSW, ACL, etc.

    Compare all those events and their fuel consumption to that of one F1 event per year.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I would think that with the dearth of World, or even national class road racing tracks in the State of Texas, that this track will not simply be a seasonal use track. I could see ALMS scheduling here, SCCA Pro, Volkswagen’s TDI (Read, pretty green racing) series, ect.
    This track will bring revenue. One of the major Road racing schools would likely set up shop here, like Skip Barber. I can’t imagine this track would not get year round use. Texas is one of the few places where a track can be used year round, so winter months we would likely get quite a few races that can’t be held at some of the national level tracks in the North.
    The thoughts that this event is any less green than any other is not worthy of refuting. Think of the possibility of UT’s automotive engineering group having a place to test new technologies without having to travel to Dallas or Houston to do it. There are a lot of positive ways to spin this, and not many negatives

  30. Speed Racer says:

    Chris, the reason we mention Formula Zero and other low emissions racing and testing is because its highly likely with a world class track in a climate such as ours, that the track will be in use more than one weekend a year. F1 cars aren’t the only things that can be raced out there. Perhaps it’s not all zero emissions races today, but it could very well be ten years down the road. Austin could encourage manufacturers like Chevrolet to come here and test their new all electric cars, leading to jobs for Austinites and increased development in alternate fuel technologies. This could very well happen — Chevrolet has already picked Austin as the city to launch its new all-electric Volt. Rather than looking at the small negative — cars racing and burning fuel in Austin — why not look at the good things the track could be used for?

    F1 doesn’t exist to promote the sale of high performance gas guzzlers. While Ferrari does get some milage out of competing in F1, how many people really know what kind of engines and chassis the Red Bull/Toro Rosso teams use?

    Mainly, F1 promotes better, more fuel efficient technology in the manufacturers that race there. While you’re focused on the mpg of the racecars, that’s not the only way to measure efficiency. In terms of horsepower produced per liter of gasoline, those are some of the most efficient engines on the planet. The reason your car gets such good gas milage today is because of things pioneered in F1 that you currently take for granted because they’re in practically every car built — things like overhead cams and variable valve timing.

    As far as those manufacturers go, few are independent manufacturers. Ferrari is owned by Fiat, so any technologies developed by Ferrari gets shared with the entire Fiat Group, which now includes Chrysler. Likewise, Lotus is owned by Proton (a Malaysian company who makes cars for the third world), Cosworth is effectively a subdivision of Ford Motor Company, Mercedes-Benz produces not only Smart cars, but Freightliner big rigs. The technology pioneered in F1 affects a lot more than just the manufacturers whose names you see on the cars.

  31. Chris says:

    Speed Racer, We don’t allow tobacco companies to advertise on TV for the same reason many of us don’t support Formula 1.
    Today’s most efficient cars by relevant measure are all electric followed by hybrids or diesels. Formula One has none of those technologies.
    The manufacturers are obliged to maximize their corporations’ profits. Profit margins are highest on the performance cars which require a great deal of marketing to stimulate sales. The manufacturers, the oil companies and the car dealers prefer that formula. And why not, we, the tax payers, have now bailed Chrysler out twice in the last 30 years for their uncompetitive fuel efficiency.
    High profit cars are over consumption – mistakes on the part of consumers seduced by the marketing of image and the thrill of power at the expense of our economy and health thanks to waste and the destructive nature of oil from extraction, transport, refining, and consumption.
    To say that racing gave us fuel efficiency is to ignore the manufacturers’ vast expenditures lobbying against fuel efficiency and safety standards.
    If manufactures were putting as much money into Formula Zero as they put into Formula 1 and abolished Formula 1 I’d be huge fan.

  32. Speed Racer says:

    First, the most profitable cars *aren’t* sports cars. The most profitable ones as far as profit margins are concerned have been SUVs — they’re fairly unsophisticated, built on old truck technology, and yet sell at luxury car prices.

    Sports cars generally don’t pay the rent, which is why Honda no longer builds the S2000, Chrysler no longer builds the Viper, and Ford no longer builds the GT. They just aren’t bought in large enough numbers and the profit margins aren’t that fat and are sometimes non-existant. As always, the vast majority of corporate profit comes from very average sedans, SUVs, and trucks that sell in large numbers.

    Chrysler died because they didn’t make very good cars, not because they didn’t make fuel efficient cars. Under Daimler’s care, they were effectively gutted and got minimal support and mostly old M-B cast offs.

    US manufacturers have spent money lobbying against fuel efficiency, but they also haven’t been racing in anything other than NASCAR either. And while F1 does not have any hybrids this year, they did have them last year and will have them next year.

  33. Also, we didn’t bail Chrysler out twice. We bailed them out once in 1979, and they repaid that bailout in 1983 with an interest profit of 350 million. It was ultimately a good long term play for the government to do so.

    This last time, we elected to let them sink on their own, only choosing to bail out GM. Chrysler now belongs to Fiat, who bought up the bankrupt company at bargain basement prices.

  34. Chris says:

    Good catch on Chrysler. My mistake but my reasoningapplies to those we bailed out and the one that failed. Europe bailed some of their auto manufacturers too.
    As for sports cars. I said performance cars and I am talking about Formula 1. So, F1 constructors’ cars are more to the point. The former F1 constructors among the companies you mentioned no longer focusing on performance cars speaks to a healthy trend away from outdated auto choices. Those of us who care what we breath, eat, and drink can only hope that others will leave F1 and actually work toward sustainable cars like BMW, Honda, and Toyota(?) did.

  35. Chris says:

    Today at the live KXAN news conference announcing the location of the proposed Formula One racetrack only Tavo Hellmund and his newly announced partner Red McCombs spoke.

    Why does no one mention Red McCombs’ car dealerships? Texas’s largest auto group.

    I guess no one remembers or noticed how heavily the dealers determined product mix in favor of high margin gas guzzlers among US manufacturers.

    It would be tragic if Formula One marketing tie ins led more car buyers to purchase gas guzzlers that would cripple their family’s finances at the next gas price spike. Most of the worst hit home foreclosure counties are in the exurbs where unfortunates were misguided to “drive till you qualify”.

    Exessive gasoline consumption through low mpg cars endangers our homes, our health, our coasts, our air and water quality, and our national security. The recent (current?) Great Recession began during the greatest transfer of wealth ever in the history of mankind.

    Sure that funny money financed housing bubble had to burst but our inefficient car dependence on gas was the prick that popped our bubble.

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