Motor Racing: Formula One to race in America

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The Independent Online
INDIANAPOLIS, THE symbol of American motor racing, was confirmed yesterday as the venue for Formula One's return to the United States in 2000.

The sport's impresario, Bernie Ecclestone, anxious to bolster the credibility of the world championship and expand into America, has agreed a long-term deal with the circuit that stages the Indianapolis 500, part of the IndyCar series.

America's first Formula One race for nine years will not, however, be run on the famous two and a half mile (four-kilometre) oval, but on a new track to be constructed specially for grand prix cars.

No date has been fixed but it is understood that officials in Indianapolis prefer an autumn race to distance it from their traditional main attraction, late in May. Ecclestone wants the race near the Canadian Grand Prix's June date, so F1 teams need make only one trip to north America. But just having a US race back on the Grand Prix schedule is seen as a triumph after various failed attempts in the 1980s in such places as Detroit, Phoenix and Long Beach.

Ecclestone, who also considered proposals from San Francisco and Las Vegas, said: "I know they [Indianapolis] will do what we want and we're honoured to race at the Speedway. It was the No 1 target."

Drivers will have to negotiate a 13-turn course, partly using the oval, but running clockwise on it, the reverse of the direction used for the Indianapolis 500. It will be the first Formula One race in the United States since Ayrton Senna won at Phoenix in 1991.

Indianapolis was traditionally used for only one event a year, the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May. But in 1994, the speedway added the Brickyard 400, which has become one of the five big events in American stock-car racing. The addition of a road course to the oval will be the first major reconfiguration since it was built in 1909.

The Indianapolis 500 was considered an official Formula One event from 1950 to 1960, despite the fact that very few of the Formula One regulars competed in the event. Notwithstanding the Indianapolis 500, a US Grand Prix race was a regular fixture on the Formula One circuit from 1959 to 1991, with some years including two events and in 1982 three. But declining attendances and interest failed to attract an organiser after 1991.

The Speedway's revenues have plunged since the track's president, Tony George, split from IndyCar's Championship Auto Racing Teams three years ago and formed the Indy Racing League, leaving the format's best driver's without a showcase event and the most famous oval race saddled with second- rate racers. Low crowds forced George to trim Indy 500 practice, qualifying and the race itself into a two-week window in May.