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"Parking lot race" would damage F1 brand in U.S., warns COTA boss

NEWS STORY
07/11/2019

Having realised it was getting nowhere with its plans for a race in downtown Miami which would have seen cars run down Biscayne Boulevard and pass through Bayfront Park, attention switched to the Hard Rock Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins, and which is owned by billionaire Stephen Ross, who is to co-promote the Miami event.

Though part of the proposed track layout would use Northwest 199th Street, the majority of the circuit would be located in the grounds of the stadium, which in the eyes of many brings back memories of the infamous Grands Prix held in the parking lot of Caesars Palace casino in the early '80s.

As the sport continues to make in-roads in its owner's backyard, Circuit of the Americas boss, Bobby Epstein fears that a "parking lot" event could undo the good work that has been done in recent years and damage the F1 brand in America.

"The selling point behind Miami was not the track, it was the (original) backdrop," he told ESPN. "They said we want to be in global destinations with iconic backdrops.

"It does seem very off brand of them to have a parking-lot race," he added.

"We don't worry from a ticket sales point of view," he continued. "I don't worry that that will become a fan favourite. It's not going to be a spectacular track but I do worry the impact it would have long-term in this market.

"I have never had a problem with another race in the same time zone," he insists, "and I've always welcomed the push for more U.S. races, but only if done the correct way.

"We dealt with the issues around the addition of the Mexican Grand Prix and the loss of revenue that initially gave us, but it's clear they've built something there."

Interestingly, despite F1 owners continued claims in terms of how they want to grow the sport in America, Epstein is puzzled by the fact that its bosses have never consulted him for advice.

"If you asked me, when Liberty bought the business - since we've been the only one promoting F1 in the U.S. and have been so successful in it - have they asked us how we've done it? Have they asked us for any help in building the sport in the U.S.? Have they asked us for any advice? In every case I would say no," he said.

Looking at Miami, in a week in which Roger Penske has bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar, and has already expressed interest in taking F1 back to Indianapolis, Epstein believes that if Ross is genuinely keen to be involved and promote a race in America, he would be best served by looking at COTA.

"He could own this track, the greatest modern track in the world, I think he'd love it," he said. "If he's really keen on having a Formula One race, he should buy the best track. Then he'd have the best circuit in the world and no uphill battles... a built-in successful audience.

"The struggle you go through to complete something like (Miami), the hurdle is very high. It's a painful battle sometimes.

"Money would be much better spent here. This was half a billion dollars investment... you could probably buy at a great discount.

"Beyond it the land around the track is prime for development, I think he's a fantastic real-estate developer so to me he'd be the likely partner, not for the race around the Hard Rock Stadium but here. I think it would cost him less than he would lose doing the race around the Hard Rock Stadium.

"Between what it would cost annually and the difficulties there would be to sustain a race there and the fact he has a lot deeper pockets than ours, maybe this should be his."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Lakota, 08/11/2019 13:22

"lets hope F1 makes its way back to Indy. "

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by F1nerd, 08/11/2019 11:02

"Laguna Seca would make a good F1 circuit, ready made just in need of some updates."

Rating: Positive (4)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Rock Doc, 07/11/2019 18:10

"Come buy my circuit please please please. It's making money honest.

Did I say the circuit was up for sale?"

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4. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 07/11/2019 18:07

"Quite a strange end to the article as the COTA owner seems to want to sell the greatest track.

COTA looks good on the telly (I've not been there yet) and so it should for have a billion dollars.

Highlands, which doesn't host F1 or Moto GP but is FIA rated for GT and the likes of Toyota Racing Series, was constructed at the same time and for a lot, less (I think around $12M USD, less grandstands and permanent pit garages). It is still very smooth.

Ross is right though, why not use some of the great tracks that the US already has?

"

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5. Posted by TokyoAussie, 07/11/2019 15:24

"We don’t want a race on a surface littered with speed bumps. Oh, hang on…"

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