U.S. the final frontier for Ecclestone

By Jim Vertuno, AP, 16 November 2012
© AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

The United States Grand Prix hasn't made its first Texas race yet and Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone is looking for ways to expand in a country where it has struggled in the past.

Ecclestone said he still hopes Formula 1 can stage a race in New York-New Jersey in 2014 and even mentioned Los Angeles as a possible race site in the future.

Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix in Austin is Formula 1's first race on American soil since 2007. Another race, the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey, which was to run on a street course set against the Manhattan skyline, was originally scheduled for June 2013. That race was postponed last month for at least a year.

"We're trying to get something sorted out in New Jersey-New York. Maybe we can do something in (Los Angeles) in the future," Ecclestone said. "I'm hoping we can resurrect (New York-New Jersey) in 2014."

As for the event in Austin, Ecclestone said he's excited about the race and the $400 million track built to host it. Formula 1 has a ten-year contract with the Circuit of The Americas to see if it can succeed. Ecclestone noted the commercial importance of creating a permanent presence in the U.S.

"It's a good market for everybody. It's Ferraris', I think, biggest market now," Ecclestone said.

Why the sport has struggled in the U.S. is a mystery, Ecclestone said.

"We've had good crowds in the past," he said, noting races in Long Beach, Calif., in the 1970s and '80s, and Watkins Glen, N.Y. from 1961-1980. The U.S. Grand Prix also drew large crowds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000-2007.

The rise of an American driver who could win races and maybe even challenge for a world championship would help grow the sport, Ecclestone said. But even that can't guarantee success.

Ecclestone said in the 1970s, an American television network executive told him that if the U.S. produced a world champion, they would pay F1 $5 million for broadcast rights.

"In those days, that was quite a decent price. When Mario (Andretti) won the championship (1978) I rang him and said "Do you want the bank particulars?' Nothing particularly happened," Ecclestone said. "What we need is some support from American companies to support an American driver and make sure it's a good team."

 

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