Formula 1

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Perry’s Security Costs Soar

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been releasing travel-related security costs incurred by Gov. Rick Perry during his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. However, the totals haven’t included overtime pay. The Texas Tribune requested the overtime amounts:

“In the six months in which Perry was an active presidential candidate, DPS spent $1.1 million on overtime pay for the Executive Protection Bureau – more than the total overtime pay for the security detail in all of 2010, records show. ”

In December, during Perry’s tour of Iowa, DPS spending costs came close to $300,000.

Photo by Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

LCRA Board to Discuss Water Management Plan

The Lower Colorado River Authority's (LCRA) Water Operations Committee is meeting today and on the agenda is the new Water Management Plan. The full LCRA board will discuss the new plan and possibly take action tomorrow.

Image courtesy Chesapeake Energy

UT Study Says Fracking Doesn’t Directly Contaminate Groundwater

A new report by the University of Texas at Austin released this week says there’s no direct link between groundwater contamination and hydraulic fracturing – a controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil from shale formations.

The research was done by UT's Energy Institute. The report’s authors say contamination is often the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wasterwater, but not caused directly by fracking. 

Fracking involves blasting water, mixed with sand and chemicals, underground to fracture rock and improve the flow of natural gas and oil. The practice is used at the North Texas Barnett Shale.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is also studying the environmental effects fracking may have on groundwater. Its preliminary results differ from the UT study.

Image courtesy

Local Formula One track promoters announced ticket details for their inaugural F1 race and other events: $1,000 to $5,000 for a spot on their “Select Seat Wait List.” That’s right: Upwards of $5,000, just for the right to purchase tickets for future events.

Granted, the “personal seat licenses” the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack is selling are for the best ones in the house: a perch in the 9,000 seat, 26 row main grandstand. Licenses are also available for seats along three of the course’s main turns, including Turn 1, which “sits atop a dramatic 133 ft. elevation and features the clearest sightlines for the track’s signature turn,” COTA promoters write.  Along with being eligible to purchase tickets for every F1 event at the track, license holders will also receive a “priority position” for purchasing tickets for other race and entertainment events there.

Photo by Lucia Duncan for KUT News

The promoters and track owners trying to put on a Formula One race in Austin apparently overcame their differences just in time — the F1 race for November 2012 is officially on the calendar.

The owners of the track — who stopped construction when the negotiations broke down last month — said this morning they will resume building immediately. That outfit, Circuit of the Americas, is run by Texas businessmen Red McCombs of San Antonio and Bobby Epstein of Austin.

Photo by KUT News.

Austin's F1 Race is On

Local organizers told KUT News this morning that an agreement has been reached over a contract with Formula One management. Also today in New Dehli, India the World Motor Sport Council officially approved the 2012 F1 calendar. It includes Austin’s U.S. Grand Prix next November. F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone had set today as the final deadline to reach a deal for Austin’s race after the contract had been in dispute.

Photo by Lucia Duncan/KUT News

The Associated Press is reporting the head of Formula One is giving local race organizers another week to reach a deal on a 2012 race at the Circuit of the Americas track in southeast Travis County. 

The AP quotes F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone as saying "the deadline hasn't been met so we are still trying to make it happen ... they need to get some money and a pen." He went on to say "if it isn't all signed before the World Motor Sport Council meeting (the race) can't happen."

That meeting is December 7th.

Photo by KUT

Formula One’s president and CEO has extended the deadline by which Austin race organizers must finalize their contract to ensure the race can proceed.

In an interview with Autoweek, Bernie Ecclestone said he doesn’t feel the people he’s now working with are “as reliable as they should be.”

Ecclestone says organizers have until Wednesday to come to a deal - or next year's race won't happen.

F1 race promoter Tavo Hellmund held the original contract for the Austin race, but Ecclestone canceled it after it became apparent that Hellmund would not be able to come up with the $25 million required to seal the deal. Construction on the track being built in southeastern Travis County was halted in mid-November.

“I was disappointed insofar as [Hellmund] had what he thought were partners that could finance the business and wouldn’t let him down,” Ecclestone told Autoweek. “Really, they let him down and they’re trying to steal from him, get him out of it, and do the whole thing themselves.”

Photo courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson wants the Attorney General’s office to investigate whether Comptroller Susan Combs has the authority to commit taxpayer money to the Formula One races that could still come to Austin next year.  

Race organizers were hoping to get $250 million over ten years from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

Patterson, never one to mince words, called the deal a “real turkey” in a news release.

AISD East Austin Facilities Meeting Tonight

The Austin Independent School District is holding a community meeting tonight to continue discussion on its button Facilities Master Plan. Tonight's meeting will focus on college readiness for schools in East Austin. AISD is considering in-district charter programs for some East Austin campuses.

The meeting is from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Martin Middle School. KUT News recently interviewed the CEO of IDEA Public Schools, which is in talks with district officials to run the in-district charter programs. You can listen to that interview here.

Resolution Passed to Name Post Office After Fallen Soldier

Photo Courtesy of Full Throttle Productions

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: The race organizer, Full Throttle Productions, released a statement via email late Tuesday afternoon: “After years of effort in getting F1 to Austin, Full Throttle Productions and city, county and state officials have done all we could. It is the responsibility of Circuit of the Americas to bring it across the finish line. For the sake of everyone, we are hopeful that they can reach an agreement with Formula 1.”

A contract dispute between race promoters and circuit officials has led to the immediate suspension of construction on the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in southeastern Travis County.  In a statement issued this afternoon, Circuit of the Americas officials said construction will not continue “until a contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012 is complete.”

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

State Comptroller Susan Combs, who's been way out in front promoting Formula 1 racing as an economic draw for Austin and Central Texas, says she's concerned about plans to hold races in New Jersey, because more events in other states could diminish the economic advantages of holding races in Texas. And she said, via written statement, that the state will do more economic analysis before it spends any money on the races.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

The Perry campaign has a good night in South Carolina...The Longhorns have a bad day in Missouri...Formula One's boss wonders aloud whether there will ever be a race day in Austin.

Perry Picks Up Debate Pieces

Image courtesy of Full Throttle Productions.

Austin’s not the only U.S. destination planning a Formula One auto race. A second F1 race, the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, will be run in New Jersey, starting in 2013. The race for the track being built southeast of Austin, the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix, is scheduled for November 2012. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says no public subsidies will be used for their race.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

2nd Drone to Patrol Texas-Mexico Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will soon have second drone to patrol the Texas-Mexico border. The Associated Press reports the Predator drone is scheduled to arrive in Corpus Christi next week. Officials had announced in July that the state would be getting another drone. Here are more details from the AP:

Photo by Circuit of the Americas

It’s official. Austin’s first Formula One race is scheduled for November 18, 2012. FIA’s World Sport Motor Council unanimously approved a 2012 schedule today. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said earlier this month that he wanted the race to occur in November; today’s vote made it official.

Artist's rendering of Circuit of the Americas provided by Full Throttle Productions

After several days of speculation, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says Austin’s first F1 race will happen in November 2012 instead of June 2012. reports that the official justification is for fans and racers to avoid the blistering Texas summer.

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Austin’s Heat Wave is Breaking Records 

Camp Mabry reached a record 107 degrees yesterday. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory from noon today until 10:00 pm Friday night. The Weather Service says too much physical activity outdoors could cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Image courtesy of the Circuit of the Americas

You probably didn't feel it, but it was a little cooler in Austin yesterday. The high of 99 degrees at Camp Mabry broke a two-week string of triple-digit temperatures. But the break's over, with temperatures expected to cruise back to the 100-degree mark.

F1 Committee Speeds Up Race Progress

Photo by KUT News.

UT Regents To Consider Increasing Endowment Payout

The University of Texas System Board of Regents is scheduled to vote  today on whether to increase the payout rate for the state's largest higher education endowment, the Permanent University Fund.  It's a 13.65 percent increase for a total of more than $575 million.  The UT System and the Texas A&M System share the funds, but UT gets more.