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Austin to host U.S. grand prix from 2012

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One will return to the United States in 2012 with a 10-year deal for a race in the Texas state capital Austin, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone announced on Tuesday.

"For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event," the Briton told the official formula1.com website.

The website said Austin, the 15th largest city in the United States, would host the race until 2021.

"We are extremely honored and proud to reach an agreement with the F1 Commercial Rights Holder," said Tavo Hellmund, the managing partner of Austin-based race promoters Full Throttle Productions, LP.

"We have been diligently working together for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of Texas and back to the United States."

The United States last hosted a Formula One race at Indianapolis in 2007, a grand prix won by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

Since that deal ended, Ecclestone has been seeking an alternative venue with teams, car manufacturers and sponsors all keen to return to one of their biggest markets.

Recent speculation had focused mainly on venues near New York, a possible return to Las Vegas, or circuits in California and Florida.

WILLIAMS DELIGHTED

Williams F1 chief executive Adam Parr welcomed the announcement.

"Well done, Bernie," he told Reuters. "He promised he'd find a great race for us in the States and this is excellent news.

"It's a giant step forwards."

Numerous other U.S. circuits have hosted races over the years, including the Texas city of Dallas in 1984 which held it on a temporary street course.

Watkins Glen in New York state was the last purpose-built permanent road course to host the race in 1980. The race at Indianapolis used a part of the famed oval, with a section cutting across the infield.

"This is a case of the right timing in the right place," said Hellmund.

"Austin features that rare combination of ideal geographic location and beauty. Its fine dining, world-renowned hospitality and excellent transportation infrastructure make Austin ideally suited to host and manage an event of this magnitude.

"Few cities if any in America could rival the connectivity of all the key elements needed for hosting a Formula One event as well as Austin."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)