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Local F1 fans hope for a race close to home

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Formula One fans from across Austin came together Sunday for a F1 watch party.

The gathering comes just days before the city council is expected to vote on a host-city sponsorship deal with race promoters to bring the U.S. Grand Prix to town in 2012.

The vote was delayed last week after some members of the council asked for more time to review the contract between the City of Austin and F1 promoters.

At the watch party, Great Britain native Pippa Powling flexed her knowledge of F1 racing. She grew up just miles away from England's original Formula One Grand Prix-- Brands Hatch Circuit.

"I heard this high pitch buzzing sound when we were out in our backyard one day and I asked my dad what it was and he took me inside and showed me on the TV, that it was a Formula One race going on at Brands Hatch, and from then on I was hooked," she said.

Powling understands what is at stake at city hall Wednesday when the council meets to take action on the city sponsorship agreement. Opponents of the F1 debate say the $25 million in state taxpayer money that will go to race promoters if the deal is approved should not be spent on a private-venture business.

"I can see that it is a big issue," Powling said. “I think it is going to be short sighted if they don't do it. Because of the revenue that this sport is going to bring with it."

An economic impact study paid for by F1 organizers predicts a direct impact of $288 million, with totals reaching as high as $482 million for each F1 race held at the track. That estimate contrasts starkly with the $91 million the Montreal Grand Prix raked in earlier this month.

"The proponents, they offer some pie in the sky numbers about what this is going to do for our economy. I think we have to slow down and question those numbers," Richard Viktorin with the Audits in the Public Interest said.

Still, many in the packed room during Sunday’s watch party say local elected officials have to think of the city's financial future, especially in a tough economy.

"This money that is being put into it is an investment, it's not an expense, because there is going to be a recoupment in terms of tax revenue, in terms of jobs," F1 advocate Daniel Grosser said.

For now, local F1 fans have to enjoy the hair pin turns from a distance.

"The fact that the track is going to be used for so many other things as well, you have no idea how much revenue is going to come through town because of this," Powling said.

Click here to read Circuit of Americas’ environmental impact study.

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