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Grand Prix fever in Adelaide

IT may be a week before the Formula 1 cars race on the streets of Adelaide, but the Australian city is already gearing up for what is expected to be a record crowd in the race's 11-year history.

Race organizers say they are expecting a race day crowd of 175,000 people, a long way in excess of last year's record of 132,000. It is unlikely that Adelaide will reach the 200,000 mark - which is believed to be the biggest crowd in F1 history, achieved at the 1986 Hungarian GP when people flocked to Budapest from all over the Eastern Bloc to see the first Grand Prix behind the Iron Curtain.

The fact that this is the last Australian GP in Adelaide seems to be acting as an extra incentive for people to buy tickets. The race moves to Melbourne in 1996.

To give you some idea of the passion for F1 which exists in Adelaide, when the race organizers decided to show the Japanese GP on the giant TV screens above the pits, 25,000 showed up to watch.

On Saturday 8,000 people took part in a bicycle race around the track and yesterday the annual "Canine Grand Prix" drew a world record 3000 entries. The dogs and their owners running around the Adelaide track, beating the previous record for a dog race of 2584 in Houston, Texas. On Sunday afternoon (once the mess had been cleared up) Eddie Irvine and Mika Salo gave demonstration runs on the Adelaide pit straight in front of 8,000 fans.

Most of the F1 circus, however, has been up in the sunny resorts of Australia's Queensland coast and is not expected into Adelaide until today. The entire week will be packed with activities which will include drag racing demonstrations and a huge air display featuring US Marine Corps FA18 Hornet fighters.

The event will conclude next Sunday night with a concert by US rock band Bon Jovi after the Grand Prix, followed by a vast firework display.

The citizens of Adelaide are unhappy that the race is moving to Melbourne and a sign hanging over the circuit highlights that discontent. It reads "The entire race becomes extinct November 12."

The local press has been getting very excited in recent days, suggesting that Adelaide might become the venue for future Pacific GPs. According to the FIA, however, this is not likely as the race will either stay in Japan or move to either Indonesia, Malaysia or China.

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