F1 abandons US Race

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    Speedway drops Formula One race
    A stormy eight-year relationship between Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Formula One ended today with the announcement the international racing series would not return in 2008.
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    clear.gif IMS chairman Tony George and F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone could not reach an agreement on a sanctioning fee to continue the U.S. Grand Prix. George had set today as a deadline for a new contract.
    “Unfortunately, and to my great disppointment, Formula One will not be back next year,” George said today at a press conference at IMS.

    “And beyond that, Bernie Eccelstone and I have had several discussions that led us to this decision and announcement. But we did agree it was prudent to leave the door open to the future.”

    The announcement is a blow to the city because of the number of out-of-town visitors lured by the race. Estimates put the economic impact at around $100 million.

    The relationship between Indy and F-1 deteriorated dramatically after the 2005 race when only six cars competed because of safety concerns over Michelin tires.

    The decision leaves the U.S. without an F-1 event and follows failed attempts at other venues, including Long Beach, Calif., Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Phoenix. Ecclestone has explored putting a race in Las Vegas but no agreement has been announced. Billionaire developer Steve Wynn, who owns a Las Vegas casino, has been pushing Ecclestone for a race for at least a decade. Las Vegas hosted grand prix events in 1981 and 1982, with each playing to relatively small crowds.

    The Speedway’s 2.6-mile road course won’t go unused next year. MotoGP, the motorcycle equivalent of Formula One, is scheduled to visit in September 2008.

    George set the July 12 deadline in order to have ample time to prepare for 2008. The decision last year for the 2007 race, held June 17, was not finalized until Aug. 16, which didn’t help ticket sales. A crowd estimated at 100,000 attended the race, won by British rookie Louis Hamilton. That number was consistent with the past few years. The inaugural race in 2000 drew a crowd twice that size.

    Although Indy attracts one of the larger crowds on the F-1 circuit, Ecclestone has complained that it is poorly promoted. F-1 has no American teams and only one American driver, Californian Scott Speed. The field this year was minus two drivers popular in Indianapolis, five-time USGP winner Michael Schumacher (retired) and former Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya (moved to NASCAR). Montoya will return to Indy in two weeks for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

    The failure to secure a deal in the U.S. could put Ecclestone at odds with several F-1 teams. During the USGP, representatives of the Ferrari, BMW, Toyota and Honda teams, among others, noted how valuable the U.S. market is to their companies.


    I’ve heard that George is a difficult guy

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