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Date discussions

WITHIN the next fortnight the FIA World Motor Sport Council will meet in Monte Carlo and will be presented with a more detailed Formula 1 calendar. We understand that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has undertaken to have the first six races fixed by the time of the meeting. At the moment only four of the first six races are definite: Melbourne on March 10; Brazil on March 31; Imola on May 5 and Monaco on May 19.

The Argentine GP, which is scheduled for April 7, is in doubt and there is yet to be confirmation of a race on April 28, although the date has been "blocked" for a Grand Prix. This is only a week before the San Marino event at Imola (May 5) and so would have to be in Europe unless the "blocked" date moves. Imola cannot move back because Monaco is scheduled for May 19 and cannot be moved, as it is traditionally linked to the Ascension Day holiday.

Logic suggests that there could be a race on April 21 - which would give Ecclestone's freight organization time to get the cars back from South America and out to another circuit. The authorities in Aida - home of the Pacific GP - want a race in April, but transportation to and from Japan would be difficult in the time available. If Argentina does not happen, anything is possible.

We continue to hear rumors that Ecclestone may be planning to insert an American race after Brazil and before Imola, and stories suggesting that this might be at Disneyworld in Florida should not be discounted. The track in Florida is to be used by the IRL at the end of January but could be modified quite easily to accept F1 cars by mid-April. A deal involving free tickets to the race for those with hotel rooms at Disneyworld - similar to the idea that Ecclestone was trying at Las Vegas - should not be discounted. Whether or not this could be agreed and organized in the time available remains to be seen.

We are unlikely to find out about the races at the end of the year - the October 6 and 13 dates have been blocked, and a decision on this probably depends on whether or not the authorities at Estoril agree to build a new media center. If the work is not done, the Portuguese GP - scheduled for September 22 - would be dropped and that would open up other possibilities for the end of the year. As an example, there could be a September 29 race in Japan followed by a October 13 event at Las Vegas, or there might be a Japan/Indonesia double header.

Ecclestone continues to say that Americans are not serious about wanting F1, but he knows very well that the split in Indycar racing is a perfect opportunity for F1 teams to gain a foothold in America. The CART-IRL split is being exacerbated by the fact that some of the Indycar sponsors want to be at the Indianapolis 500 at all costs, and are forcing the teams they support to go to the Brickyard - which will be an IRL event.

In recent days the CART board has met and decided to go ahead with plans to hold a 500-mile race on the same day as the Indy 500, but the Galles, Green, Hall, Patrick and Walker teams are all expected to compete at Indianapolis.

There are many in F1 who are hoping that the political trouble in Indycar racing will drive some of the sponsors into F1 - and a race or even two in the United States would certainly help that.

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