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At event, F1 organizers insist race will come to N.J. next year

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Chief race promoter Leo Hindery Jr. (third from left) joins two-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel (third from right) in insisting the race will come to New Jersey in 2013. (GP America)
Chief race promoter Leo Hindery Jr. (third from left) joins two-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel (third from right) in insisting the race will come to New Jersey in 2013. (GP America)

The first of 10 Formula One races slated to take place in Hudson County is expected to be on the circuit's 2013 racing calendar by early next month, organizers said Monday.

Speaking at a promotional event in Weehawken, one of the host towns for the course, chief promoter Leo Hindery Jr. reaffirmed that the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial remains on track to begin next June, despite recent rumors to the contrary.

"These rumors about the track not going forward and things of that sort — I don't know where they come from," Hindery said. "You just have to look around. This race is going forward. … If we have any doubts, we wouldn't be here today."

Hindery's remarks came during a packed event sponsored by Red Bull Racing and Infiniti, the automaker, at the waterfront Port Imperial development. Dozens of fans and foreign media members swarmed the event, which featured practice laps around the course by two of Formula One's top racers as they showcased a new Infiniti model.

Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of international racing circuit, has cast doubt in recent months on the race's June 2013 start date, and publicly raised questions about the contract negotiations with the New Jersey organizers. Hindery acknowledged today it was "up to Mr. Ecclestone to put us on the calendar, which will happen some time late this month or early next month."

The annual race is expected to follow the Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal, which was held last weekend. The event drew organizers and vendors for the New Jersey race, who have been busy preparing for an affair that is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.

Dennis Robinson, chief operating officer of the New Jersey race, said the trip to Montreal allowed them to study aspects like the event setup, the use of transportation and concession operations. The organizers, who spent six days in the city, also met with security operators and one of the racing teams involved.

"We spent the whole week just going from meeting to meeting and trying to learn as much as we can," Robinson said in an interview, calling it a good opportunity for his team to see a Formula One event "close to home."

After the event, Hindery told reporters one of the main concerns for the New Jersey race will be getting some 110,000 attendees to and from the site. Fans will not be allowed to drive to the course, but will have public transit options like ferry service into Port Imperial, light rail and shuttle buses.

"We were very concerned about getting them in and out," he said. "And we know how to do it, and we've got the state and all of its logistics people behind the effort. That's probably the biggest challenge. You want to make it worth their while to come back."

The event calls for transforming stretches of Weehawken and West New York into a three-mile course, with hairpin turns, steep changes in elevation and cars reaching up to 200 mph. While the track and the venue are far from complete, they drew the praise of one of the Formula One racers who took preview laps Monday.

"I didn't know…what to expect, but it is truly unique," said Sebastian Vettel, of Red Bull Racing, a two-time Formula One champion from Germany. "I think this race is going to be very, very great, and very soon will be one of the races that every driver wants to win."

Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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