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Forget F1 in America in 1996

OUR spies at the FIA tell us that Bernie Ecclestone and his agents in North America have once again failed to find a deal to hold a United States Grand Prix, despite talks with both Las Vegas or Disneyworld. It seems that US promoters continue to balk at F1's financial demands - although there appear to be several venues which are interested in holding Grands Prix.

As you read this, FIA delegates are gathering in Monte Carlo for the FIA annual congress and prize giving. The activities will include a World Motor Sport Council meeting, planned to take place tomorrow. This is not expected to do a great deal in terms of F1, but should produce a definitive Grand Prix calendar for the 1996 season.

We hear that the race in Argentina, scheduled for April 7, will happen, but it is highly unlikely that Aida will hold another Pacific GP and so the April 28 date - which is currently blocked - will either be dropped or will see a European GP at the Nurburgring or at Jerez. The weather at the Nurburgring in April would be a lot better than it was when the F1 circus visited in October this year, and with German interest in F1 booming thanks to the efforts of Michael Schumacher, the Nurburgring would seem the more likely candidate.

At the end of the season there are still doubts as to the October 6 and 13 dates. One of these will be a Japanese GP at Suzuka, but the Japanese do not want two races within a week, China is not ready, Indonesia cannot agree a deal with Ecclestone, and Adelaide has been ruled out - the second date may have to be changed. If there is an April European GP, it is likely that the October 6 date will be dropped to hold the calendar to 16 races.

The only other option would be to move the Japanese race into September - only possible if the Portuguese GP is canceled (the Estoril authorities have to guarantee to build a new media center to ensure the race will be held) - and to have a finale elsewhere on October 13. At that time of year the weather in Europe is suspect - although a race might be possible at Jerez or Mugello. The only other sensible option would be South Africa - which held the Championship showdowns in the mid 1960s and again in 1983 - but has not had a race since the start of 1993. The South Africans made it known last summer that they were bidding for the final race in 1996, but that bid has been disrupted by financial problems at Kyalami. There is, however, no shortage of support for F1 in South Africa. The Secretary-General of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa, is a big fan and Prince Dhlamini of Swaziland - who is married to President Nelson Mandela's daughter Zimzi - is on the Board of Directors of the Automobile Association of South Africa and attended the FIA Congress in Geneva last year.

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