The chances of a MotoGP round taking place in Austin, Texas seem further away than ever. Yesterday, Kevin Schwantz filed suit against the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), claiming an attempt to fraudulently deprive the 1993 500cc World Champion of the rights to organize the MotoGP race to be organized at the circuit outside of Austin, Texas. In the lawsuit, Schwantz accuses COTA of going behind his back to arrange a deal directly with Dorna to organize the Austin round of MotoGP, while Schwantz' company, 3fourTexasMGP, has a ten-year contract to organize the race. In a statement issued tonight by the circuit press office, COTA denies that Schwantz holds any rights to organize the event.
The problem appears to stem from the falling out between the one of the driving forces behind the project, Tavo Hellmund, and Bobby Epstein, who raised the funds to get the circuit built and secure the Formula One race scheduled for November this year. That dispute centered around money that Hellmund felt he should have been paid, and which Epstein believed he was not entitled to. The suit was eventually settled earlier this year, in an out-of-court settlement between the two parties. However, because the terms of the settlement were not made public, there is still no clear evidence of exactly who owns what rights to which races at the circuit. If those rights were renegotiated as part of the settlement, that is not currently public knowledge.
Schwantz appears to have been caught up in the middle of this. The original press release was clear. The statement issued by Dorna and published on the MotoGP.com website states that a ten-year deal had been reached between Dorna, Full Throttle LLP (the company owned by Tavo Hellmund) and Schwantz' company 3fourTexasMGP. That would appear to imply that Schwantz does indeed have a contract to organize the race, though the circuit denies this is the case.
The dispute could throw plans for the 2013 schedule into turmoil. With news emerging that Dorna was planning to keep all four races in Spain for 2013, despite earlier promises to cut back to just three in Spain, it had been expected that a provisional calendar could appear at the next round of MotoGP in Misano next week. The Austin round had been expected to take place early in the season, in the slot vacated by Estoril, and be run back-to-back with the Argentinian Grand Prix. However, if no agreement can be reached on the race, or if the race is under threat of legal action, the race could be scrapped, or at least postponed for a year until the legal situation clears up. No Dorna reaction has yet been forthcoming on the afffair.
Below are the statements on the affair issued by Kevin Schwantz through his press agent, and by the Circuit of the Americas:
Statement by Kevin Schwantz
“I have devoted over 25 years of my life to MotoGP, the premier motorcycle road racing world championship. I spent four of those years bringing MotoGP to Texas, my home state. As a result, MotoGP agreed in 2011 to host an annual race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track.
I’m sorry to say that COTA is now attempting to unlawfully force me out of this project. I believe COTA has committed fraud in doing so. Earlier today, I took legal action against COTA. I was forced to file this lawsuit in order to protect my rights, my reputation, and MotoGP itself.
I want to see MotoGP come to Texas, but I cannot allow COTA to take advantage of me. More important, I will not sit idly by while a newcomer to racing discredits the sport I love.”
--Kevin Schwantz, President of 3fourTexasMGP, LLC
Circuit of The Americas™ issues statement regarding Schwantz lawsuit
AUSTIN, Texas (Sept. 8, 2012) – Circuit of The Americas today released the following statement regarding the recent lawsuit filed by Kevin Schwantz related to promotional rights he claims to possess for a MotoGP race in Texas.
“It makes no sense for Mr. Schwantz to pursue legal action in this matter. We were informed by DORNA, the organization that holds the rights for the MotoGP racing series, that Mr. Schwantz has no contract to promote a MotoGP race in Texas,” Circuit spokesperson Julie Loignon said. “To be clear, Mr. Schwantz never had an agreement to conduct a MotoGP race at Circuit of The Americas, and to our knowledge, he has no agreement to conduct an event at any Texas racetrack. Perhaps, that is why he is reacting this way, out of embarrassment, and is making false claims to the court and media.
“We know race fans would love to see a MotoGP event at the Circuit, and it is good to know that the door is open to make that happen at our new world-class venue in Austin.”
About Circuit of The Americas
Circuit of The Americas will be a world-class destination for performance, entertainment, education and business. It will be the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the United States designed for any and all classes of racing, from motor power to human power, and be the U.S. home to the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ Nov. 16-18.
The Circuit of The Americas’ master plan features a variety of permanent structures designed for business, education, entertainment and race use. Its signature element will be a 3.4-mile circuit track. Other support buildings will include an expansive outdoor live music space, a conference center, a banquet hall as well as a state-of-the-art medical facility. Future proposed amenities include a driving/riding experience, a motorsports driving club, kart track, grand plaza event center and tower, and a trackside recreational vehicle park. For more information and downloadable video, audio and photos, visit: www.CircuitofTheAmericas.com.