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Austria joins the crowd

THE pressure to get a place on the 1996 Formula 1 calendar continues to increase with yet another country declaring itself interested in holding a race. Hot on the heels of Malaysia, the United States (four projects!), China (two different projects), Indonesia and South Africa, Austria has just announced that it wants Formula 1 back at the Osterreichring - and is willing to make the changes necessary to get it.

Austria hasn't hosted a race since 1987, the year in which three starts were necessary before the race could begin without incident. Austria has enjoyed a high profile in F1, thanks to Niki Lauda and more recently Gerhard Berger; but suffered a huge setback last year when up-and-coming racer Roland Ratzenberger was killed and Karl Wendlinger badly injured.

The Austrian circuit, however, is planning to undertake the safety work necessary for an FIA license, and it always attracted a lot of Italian spectators. The local infrastructure has been improved and roads upgraded.

The FIA World Council meets in Paris in nine days, but no F1 calendar is expected until the next meeting of the council in October - and even then the dates are unlikely to be confirmed before December.

Bernie Ecclestone has said that there will be only 16 races in 1996.

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