AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) - Austin's home of Formula One racing, Circuit of The Americas, announced Friday that the American Le Mans Series is the newest addition to CoTA’s annual calendar.
The first ALMS race, presented by Tequila Patrón, is set for the spring of 2013, at the sports, entertainment and business development facility under construction east of the city. The track and buildings are on schedule to be completed for the first F1 race scheduled for Nov. 16 to Nov. 18.
ALMS features a unique, multi-class auto racing format that brings together five diverse and technically-driven categories of international race cars in battles of endurance at speeds topping 180 mph, according to CoTA staff.
The 10-race championship is based on the world’s greatest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in France. Many of the world’s most iconic automotive brands compete in the race, including BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Honda, Lotus, Mazda and Porsche.
The series and its teams have corporate support from a variety of domestic and international sponsors, and a hallmark of ALMS is its commitment to automotive innovation and sustainability. It is recognized as the global leader in Green Racing by top federal agencies and is lauded for its focus on alternative energy solutions, according to CoTA staff.
“Our vision is to bring premier sports and entertainment programming to Circuit of The Americas and to partner with motorsports organizations that put a premium on innovation, fan experience and environmental sustainability,” CoTA president Steve Sexton said. “The American Le Mans Series—with its highly competitive, customer-focused programming and its well-known commitment to Green Racing—certainly fits that vision. The ALMS at Circuit of The Americas will include an endurance race, which will be another thrilling experience for fans. We know ALMS fans to be extremely loyal and engaged, and we look forward to showing them a great time in Central Texas.”
More than 25 million U.S. fans follow the American Le Mans Series , which also has a growing international following in Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia.
ALMS’ presenting sponsor, Tequila Patrón, is a product of Patrón Spirits , founded by Austin's entrepreneur and CoTA investor John Paul DeJoria.
“The opportunity to partner with the Circuit of The Americas to bring North America’s premier sports car racing series to fans across Texas, at what is going to be one of the finest road racing facilities in the world, is a natural fit for all involved,” ALMS president and chief executive officer Scott Atherton said. “The addition of Circuit of The Americas to our schedule will be very well received by our fans and stakeholders alike. We know we have a lot of ALMS fans in Texas, and for our teams, manufacturers and sponsors, Austin and the surrounding region represent an important new business market."
ALMS is the only racing series recognized to comply with the Green Racing protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International. These organizations see Green Racing as a way to foster technology developments for tomorrow’s production vehicles, enhance national energy security and reduce carbon emissions, according to CoTA staff.
“The American Le Mans Series is the model for sustainability in the motorsports industry,” Edgar Farrera, sustainability director for CoTA, added. “The Series’ commitment to environmental stewardship matches our own, as Circuit of The Americas has joined the Green Sports Alliance and is the first ALMS facility to join the alliance. It’s rewarding to partner with a motorsports series that’s truly in sync with a cause that matters to us.”
Green Sports Alliance is a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 40 professional and collegiate sports teams and nearly 90 sports venues, with a mission to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performances.
“Knowing of Circuit of The Americas’ focus on innovation and sustainability, the opportunity to showcase our cars, our teams and our pioneering role as the recognized Global Leader in Green Racing just makes it that much better,” Atherton added. “Our competitors are looking forward to the challenge and intrigue of racing at what will be a world-class motorsports venue, and our Series is thrilled to welcome Circuit of The Americas as a key round for our 15th championship season.”
Round four of the 2012 American Le Mans Series season is the Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. The race airs live, Saturday, July 7, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2. ESPN3 streams the race live, beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET. The series’ website, ALMS.com , offers live in-car cameras, timing and scoring, and a live broadcast feed for viewers outside the U.S.
The announcement comes on the heels of a filing made by CoTA in Travis County District Court over a legal dispute with former CoTA principal Tavo Hellmund and
his various entities.
On May 24, CoTA filed an amended plea in abatement and motion to compel arbitration, and voluntarily agreed to have a temporary sealing order vacated, according to Julie Loignon, spokeswoman for CoTA.
Information contained in the pleading will release to the public information that had been temporarily sealed by the court until the presiding judge had the opportunity to rule on whether the dispute would be resolved through binding arbitration.
According to Loignon, it is explained in the pleadings and stated in the Accelerator Holdings LLC partnership agreement signed by Circuit investors and Hellmund in December 2010 that “any controversy, claim or dispute between or among the Company and any Member or among Members arising out of or relating to this Company Agreement or any other matters pertaining to the Company, shall be settled by binding arbitration.” Accelerator Holdings has a minority interest in Circuit of The Americas.
Circuit chairman Robert Epstein reiterated the company’s desire to put an end to the dispute with Hellmund and his entities through binding arbitration.
“Our intent from the beginning has been to resolve this matter efficiently through the agreed-upon binding arbitration process, and we feel that unsealing the court records moves us closer to this goal,” Epstein stated.
Circuit of The America’s attorney Michael Whellan noted that, “We believe the facts made public through today’s filing strongly support our position that Mr. Hellmund’s claims and accusations—and his misrepresentations to Circuit representatives and the public about his ability to assign Formula 1™ race contracts—only serve to undermine his case.
“We believe the tactics Mr. Hellmund and his legal team have employed to date are meant to purposely generate negative public sentiment about Circuit of The Americas in hopes of extracting a large settlement. Unfortunately, we do not expect these tactics to end anytime soon. Nonetheless, we are prepared to arbitrate this dispute as the parties have agreed to do in writing.”
A spokesman for Hellmund's legal team, Eric Wetzel, issued the following statement in response:
“If Bobby Epstein truly desires an efficient resolution of his dispute with Tavo Hellmund, as he now claims, he can simply honor the $18 million buyout agreement that he signed in September of 2011. If not, Tavo is prepared to amend his pleadings to include charges of fraud and other misdeeds, based on newly discovered evidence. We believe this evidence demonstrates that Mr. Epstein intended to force Tavo out of the F1 project from the beginning. As required by the September agreement signed by Mr. Epstein, these new claims will be litigated in the Travis County, Texas courts—not in a secretive arbitration proceeding.”