Sports Listings: Plan Ahead

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The Independent Online
THE Indianapolis 500 champion, Al Unser Jnr, will attempt on 14 February to win the United States' other senior motor racing title, the Daytona 500, in Florida. The 1990 IndyCar series champion has entered the opening race in the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup series for modified road cars and Unser will drive a Chevrolet Lumina at Daytona Beach.

The Daytona 500 race is the culmination of two weeks of competition and qualifying races, starting with an endurance race on 31 January for sportscars, the Rolex 24-hour race, the United States equivalent of Le Mans. There is an eight-race programme in the week prior to the Daytona 500. Qualifying begins on the Thursday with two 125-mile races, the first 15 in each race going through to the 500.

Tickets for the Daytona 500 normally sell out up to a year in advance, but Page and Moy, the Leicester travel company specialising in motor racing tours, has some packages left. The seven-night trip, costing pounds 599 per person, is based in Orlando, an hour's drive from Daytona Beach. The company can also tailor packages to specific needs.

The circuit, Daytona International Speedway, is oval-shaped, with two straights and banked ends. Last year's race was run at an average of 160mph, including pit stops and yellow flags, when cars must remain in formation behind the pace car, which comes on to the track after an accident. Racing recommences when the track is clear. It has seating for 110,000 and practically all of the circuit is visible.

The city of Daytona Beach boasts one of the longest beaches in the world at 23 miles. It is also a golf centre with 10 first-class courses in the area. Daytona is handily placed for sightseeing. The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral is an hour's drive to the south, historic St Augustine a similar distance to the north, while Orlando is 55 miles to the south-west.

Orlando has a concentration of entertainment for everyone. It is the home of Disney's Magic Kingdom and the film studios, MGM and Universal. EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) provides a vision of the future. Sea World offers dolphins and whales; there are water theme parks, like Wet and Wild. For night time entertainment, Pleasure Island, part of the Disney World complex, comprises clubs and discos.

Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors' Bureau has an office in London and provides a visitors' guide and calendar of events. British Airways and Virgin fly to Orlando, while Delta, American, US Air and Continental fly to Daytona Beach.

On Saturday, 3 July, the Daytona track hosts another NASCAR race, the Pepsi 400, tickets for which are available at the circuit from dollars 30 ( pounds 20).

Daytona 500, 14 February. Pepsi 400, 3 July.

Daytona International Speedway, PO Box 2801, Daytona Beach, Florida 32120-2081 (Tel: 010 1 904 253 7223).

Daytona Beach Convention and Vistors' Bureau, 121 Gloucester Place, London, W1H 3PJ. (Tel: 071-935 7756).

United States Travel and Tourism Administration, PO Box 1EN W1, Oxford Street, London W1A 1EN. (Tel: 071-495 4466).

Page and Moy Ltd, 136-140 London Road, Leicester LE2 1EN (Tel: 0533-524344): Seven nights in Orlando, pounds 599 per person. Tickets for Daytona 500: Joe Weatherley Grandstand pounds 47.50, Oldfield Grandstand pounds 28.50.