A Grand Prix for Los Angeles?

IN recent days there have been reports in the Toronto Globe and Mail suggesting that Formula 1 racing boss Bernie╩Ecclestone is considering a race in the Los Angeles. The story suggested that the race will be heavily supported by the Ford Motor╩Company, which wants to promote Grand Prix racing in America as it is now beginning to take the sport seriously with its involvement with Stewart Grand Prix.

Ford has indicated to Ecclestone that it is not interested in racing in Las Vegas and, as a result of this, the rumors about a Las Vegas event have gone very quiet in recent weeks.

There is a certain amount of logic in the idea of a race in Los Angeles. The population of the city and its suburbs is around 10m, making it the second largest city in the United States (after New York). Las Vegas, which was bidding for a race, has a population of just one million.

Los Angeles is just emerging from its worst recession since the 1930s and the city's glamorous image was badly hit by the 1992 riots which left 55 people dead and 1000 buildings destroyed. Although manufacturing is booming big business has turned its back on LA and the city is in the process of trying to improve its image and attract business.

The mayor Richard Riordan recently announced a major program to revive Hollywood by cleaning up the streets in an effort to attract tourism. Serious crime in LA fell by 25% in 1996 as a result of other measures and Riordan, a self-made millionaire venture capitalist, has established a marketing department to sell LA to world.

Los Angeles has the potential to do well in the currently booming "events industry" but does not currently figure in that business - which is dominated by Las Vegas, Chicago and Orlando.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail the race would take place around the Civic Center on the Labor Day weekend. The venue is sensible as there is easy access to the area from all over the LA basin and through traffic would not be affected by the race. A track could include stretches of Sunset Boulevard and Beverly Boulevard and wind through the buildings around City Hall. The date makes little sense as Labor Day is the first weekend in September - which would mean that the traditional Monza date would have to be moved. There is no hope at all for a race in 1998 - as the Globe and Mail suggested - as there has been no attempt to get the council to agree to an event. This bureaucracy is not the work of a few weeks - as has been proved in Las Vegas - and in Los Angeles it will be more difficult as Mayor Riordan has to share power with a less enlightened city council.

At Magny-Cours, FIA and Ford Motor Company sources said that although they are interested in getting F1 into North╩America they know absolutely nothing about a race in LA. One must, therefore, treat the story with considerable skepticism.

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