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Ecclestone looking to Florida?

RATHER than visiting the Pacific and Japanese Grands Prix F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone flew to the United States of America to meet the top management of the McDonald's Corporation, the world's largest global restaurant chain, which currently operates 15,000 outlets around the world.

Based in Oak Brook, Illinois, McDonald's has become involved in F1 this year as a circuit sponsor in various countries and Ecclestone hopes that his global F1 TV show will tempt McDonald's to invest to a greater extent in the future. In particular, Ecclestone would like McDonald's to support his plans for an American Grand Prix.

McDonald's is a big advertiser and has an annual budget for promotions of over $1.4 billion to keep product awareness as high as possible. Although already global, McDonald's is still expanding fast around the world - adding around 1400 restaurants this year alone and the overseas business now accounts for almost half the company's profits. In short it is a perfect company to use F1 as a marketing tool - big enough to afford to be a big player and likely to gain a lot from the sponsorships.

We hear that Ecclestone and his American wheeler-dealer Tommy Baker are not only considering a race in Las Vegas but are also in talks with Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. This is an old project which went quiet some months ago and is to be used for Tony George's Indy Racing League if it goes ahead as planned. However building a circuit at Disneyworld will be expensive and the more major races which take place the more profits Disney can envisage.

Whether or not a race in Disneyworld would be instead of or in addition to Las Vegas is currently difficult to say but there is no doubt that while Indycar racing seems about to split itself down the middle, Ecclestone will not be sitting on the sidelines ignoring the chance to break into the North American market. It would not surprise us to see him announce two races in the US in 1996 - although 1997 is probably fast becoming more likely.

With the recently published F1 calendar ending in mid-October next year the idea to hold Vegas on Veterans Day in mid-November is no longer possible and Ecclestone and Baker have switched their plan to the Columbus Day holiday weekend in mid-October.

The Japanese GP organizers, incidentally, have been busy advertising a November 3 date for next year, despite the fact that this date is not blocked on the calendar. The Japanese will probably have to change their date because the F1 teams are insisting on an 18-week break over the winter and with the Melbourne race pegged to the local Moomba Holiday in March, the season cannot be extended into November. We also hear suggestions that the Pacific GP in 1996 could take place in Indonesia...

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