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Bernie and the USA

Bernie Ecclestone has been hinting at the possibility of a second GP for the States and is talking to people in Las Vegas and Chicago apparently. This is all very interesting but then he asks a rhetorical question that just begs for an answer:

Bernie said: “Why should we race in America for certainly half the fee we get in other parts of the world?”

Bernie

Bernie Ecclestone

Funnily enough, I can tell you why, Bernie – because the US remains the largest market in the world, that’s why. If F1 has to accept lower profits to get into that market, it will be more than worth it in the long run. Ever since it began, F1 has tried to interest Americans, adding the Indy 500 as a fake GP at first, then accepting races at some pretty strange places; anything to gain a toehold.

For fifty years nothing has worked – the Statesiders have remained doggedly fascinated by cars roaring around banked ovals at top speed but F1′s moment has come at last. American open wheel racing is in disarray, split into two camps, Champ Cars and IRL, and competing with NASCAR for viewers. If there were ever a time when those viewers might be persuaded to look at an alternative to their domestic series, this has to be it.

It is not due to F1′s success that its TV ratings are the equal of Champ Cars’ now – that is entirely thanks to the split. But this illustrates the chance that is going begging. Those Americans that have made the switch to F1 are already incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and hunger for more. Give them another GP and the word will spread; heck, give them three more and you’ll murder CC and IRL.

And, if you have to accept a bargain basement price for such races, grin and bear it – there’ll be plenty of opportunities to add to the FIA’s fortune in the future. Think of how the Japanese destroyed the British car industry: they sold their cars for ridiculously low prices and added a radio as standard. Naturally, the Brits bought them by the thousand. Once the competition was on its knees, they increased the prices and it was too late to save the local industry. That is how to invade a new market.

Money is all very nice and easy to get while Asian countries are prepared to pay ridiculous prices for a GP. But how long can the bonanza continue? Sooner or later those governments that are all for F1 now will realize that there are better places to spend their cash. Taxpayers have a way of demanding some return for their contributions. When that happens, F1 will have to fall back on its traditional source of funding, the fans. Will they still be there after an endless diet of featureless races in deserts and fading funfairs?

So yes, we need at least one more race in the States. And if it has to be done by special offer, a never-to-be-repeated price, then it must be so. When a chance like this comes along (and it’s been fifty years of waiting, remember), we should be prepared to give the GPs away if it means conquering America.

Stupid question, Bernie.

2 Responses to “Bernie and the USA”

  1. Few would argue F1 sets the high-tech road racing benchmark … although admittedly there are factors striving to alter that status. It follows that the only way to determine whether this type of racing will flourish (or fail) in the U.S. is to present the fans with a genuine display of that, rather than whatever is currently offered at Indianapolis, and was generally given in the past too.

    Existing interest suggests the spectator base is already there, but to expand upon it real road courses (my apologies to Hermann Tilke’s artificial versions) such as perhaps Elkhart Lake’s Road America and Monterey’s Laguna Seca should be utilized. Agreed both would need some modification and without a long-term commitment neither would be too interested.

    My opinion (for what it’s worth) is that properly served, in time, the market would support two such races. A vested interest? Well, perhaps so, if my living midway between the two noted tracks could be seen to indicate that.

  2. I agree with you completely, David – both suggested venues would be ideal showcases for F1 cars at their best (and I live too far away from them to have a vested interest!). Street races are also great ways to bring the sport before the public – Long Beach was always a favorite of mine. There seems to be a move back to these in the Far East and this would fit well with the USA already having seen several GPs in city in places like Detroit and Phoenix.

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