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No F1 this weekend, but organizers hope race is back on track

This weekend will come and go without the highly touted Formula One race along the Hudson County waterfront, as organizers once pledged before scrapping the event last fall. But stakeholders in recent weeks have renewed their hope that it's on track for 2014.

Published reports this month have said Leo Hindery Jr., the chief promoter for the Grand Prix of America, has secured a new 15-year contract with the international racing circuit, along with unqualified support from F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone. The deal was welcome news to backers of the race after a year in which Ecclestone often questioned its progress, foretelling the financial and construction setbacks that led to its postponement.

The steps forward are now leading state officials to reconvene the agencies that will support the race. On Thursday, Sports & Exposition Authority CEO Wayne Hasenbalg said the agency will be "reconnecting people who had already been involved and getting them engaged again" after its working groups were effectively suspended last year.

That involves everyone from law enforcement to environmental regulators, Hasenbalg said. He also noted that "just like the Super Bowl, there's going to be a huge mass transit planning component to this," leading the state to consider how to transport visitors to the racing site in Weehawken and West New York, and where to set up park-and-rides.

"We're one year out, potentially, on Formula One, so I'm totally confident we'd be able to provide the support that's needed for that race," he said at the agency's board meeting.

Organizers called off the race in October, citing "ongoing construction issues" with the 3.2-mile riverfront course that will run largely through the Port Imperial development. The race, which was scheduled for June 16, was slated to be the first in a 10-year run and draw some 100,000 spectators to the region from around the world for an economic windfall for North Jersey.

Buildup to the event had been dampened repeatedly by speculation about contractual and financing issues, despite insistence by promoters that it would not be delayed. The organizing group lost several key executives earlier this year, but has recently brought in racing veterans like Christopher Pook, who masterminded the USA Grand Prix West in California from 1976 to 1983.

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