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Top exec in N.J.'s F1 race to step down

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One of the top executives behind next summer's inaugural Formula One race in Hudson County is stepping down, according to the event's organizers.

Tom Cotter, the current president of Formula One Grand Prix of America, said Monday he will step down at month's end after less than a year on the job. The longtime auto racing and marketing executive said he will return to North Carolina to teach, write and run his businesses.

"Over the last eight months I've had the good fortune to lead a group of professionals in bringing Formula One racing to the New Jersey and New York region," Cotter said in a statement issued by the race promoters. He said the group has moved the project forward rapidly, "but now, it's time to return home to North Carolina."

He added that he has "full faith in the Grand Prix of America team, and look(s) forward to sitting in the grandstands at a world-class race in 2013."

Cotter's resignation comes after several months of speculation about whether the preparations for the race, which will run through Weehawken and West New York, will be ready for its June 2013 start date. The doubt has been fueled by Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of the international Formula One circuit, who has hinted several times since April that contractual and financing issues would stall the event.

But local organizers have repeatedly dismissed the speculation as they have steadily recruited contractors and ramped up promotional efforts this summer. That was no different this week as they announced Cotter's departure.

"We're all thankful for Tom's leadership in bringing Formula One to Port Imperial," chief promoter Leo Hindery said in a statement. "During his stewardship, we've made great progress and are less than a year away from the sport's top racers speeding around a New Jersey street course with New York City in the background."

Next year's race is expected to be the first of 10 in the Garden State. The event will transform 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.

The course will run largely through the Port Imperial development owned by Roseland Property Co. Carl Goldberg, managing partner of Roseland, could not immediately be reached today.

Cotter founded a racing marketing group in 1989, serving clients like NASCAR, Mercedes-Benz and United Parcel Service until 2001, when his company was sold to Clear Channel Communications. Cotter also served as public relations director for the Charlotte Motor Speedway for four years.

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