The Circuit of the Americas has released photos showing the extent of damage caused by a recent storm which swept through Austin, Texas over the Halloween weekend. Flooded tunnels, damaged grandstands and crushed paddock buildings are among the damage to the circuit, host of the Formula One and MotoGP US Grands Prix and the World Endurance Championship.
A large weather system moving through the region produced heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms across the Gulf Coast, killing at least six people across Texas in the associated widespread flooding. In Austin, boats were deployed by the Austin Fire Department to help with water rescues, while vehicles were nearly submerged by floodwaters near to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
At CoTA, a direct lightning strike caused damage to seating in one of the grandstands, while several access tunnels became completely flooded. The high winds tossed a number of modular buildings around the site and flattened several bars and concessions stands. A portion of retaining wall next to Tunnel 2 was also brought down.
Earlier in October heavy rains caused disruption to the Formula One Grand Prix, causing the postponement of qualifying to race day morning.
Ironically, it's storm clouds of a financial kind that might cause longer term damage to the Formula One event; an announcement on Wednesday that the State Government is cutting cutting the track's funding for the annual U.S. Grand Prix has plunged the future of the event into doubt.
The State is said to be cutting payments to COTA by more than 20 percent. And those contributions have been significant -- $25 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This year's payment is expected to be about $19.5 million - a decision apparently communicated to the circuit just weeks before this year's race, leading to heavy financial losses.
Circuit chairman Bobby Epstein told the local Austin-American Statesman newspaper that the F1 race depended on the State finances to be viable. "To use a technical term, I think we're screwed," he said.
The State's decision looks poised to descend into a legal battle into whether this is reneging on a deal struck in 2011 to provided a quarter-billion dollar subsidy over the next decade - a commitment referenced by Then-Comptroller Susan Combs and Texas Governor Rick Perry in letters to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. It is thought the deal was dependent on how much economic activity the race brings to Texas.
CoTA spokesman Dave Shaw confirmed: "An entire facility was constructed based on that deal. If the calculation is changed now, that's effectively changed the terms of the deal."