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AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - On a prime patch of riverfront real estate in the Texas capital, the economics of the Americas are being played out at a classic car auction held to coincide with the global sports spectacle of Formula 1 racing making its annual stop in Austin.
Classic cars from around the world will be headed to the auction block on Saturday, with a large contingent of the buyers likely to be Latin Americans in Austin for the F1 United States Grand Prix, one of the best-attended races on the F1 circuit.
"Texas is a hub where you can do these kind of exchanges for beautiful, tangible assets around the world and target the Latin American market," said Antonio Brunet, president and founder of the Motostalgia auction house that is running the event.
In places like Argentina, which has one the world's highest inflation rates at around 40 percent on a yearly basis, classic cars are seen as one asset that can be sold on the global market and be used as a hedge against a troubled economy at home.
The F1 in Austin attracts about 60,000 people from Mexico, who are fans of the sport and willing to travel to Texas for the race just across the border, according the Circuit of the Americas, which hosts the race.
Mexico has seen the number of its affluent swell in recent years as per capita GDP has boomed by 56 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to World Bank data.
The F1 race generates about $900 million for the local economy, the Circuit of the Americas estimates and a small bit of that will be spent at the Motostalgia auction.
The headline car from last year's event, a 1950 Cisitalia Abarth 204 A Spyder Sport that was found in Argentina, sold for $3.5 million. The sleek silver Italian two-seater that was the last car raced to victory by legendary driver Tazio Nuvolari.
One of the featured cars this year is a 1955 Aston Martin DB2/4 coupe that belonged to a collector in Guatemala and is expected to fetch between $285,000 to $325,000. Final results from the Saturday auction will take about a week to complete.
"Latin Americans and Mexicans have been doing business and transactions in Texas for decades. F1 has brought the car culture and business culture all together in one weekend and one place," said Brunet.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Doina Chiacu