DECEMBER 15, 1997
Other races or otherwise
SINCE the European tobacco legislation was agreed - with a total ban on tobacco advertising beginning on October╩1,╩2006 there have been a rush of rumors suggesting alternative circuits to those in Europe. We have heard stories of attempts to revive the Mexican GP in Mexico City. This would require substantial investment in the circuit as the safety at certain points on the track is clearly not good enough for modern F1. Much will depend on whether or not the local government is interested in pouring money into the Autodromo.
The city government has just changed with a new mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas taking office on December 5. The founder of the left-wing Party of Democratic Revolution, Cardenas may consider that money is better spent trying to reduce poverty and crime in the city rather than attempting to improve Mexico City's poor international image with a Grand Prix.
Jose Abed, the man who used to organize the Mexican GP between 1986-1992, recently lost his place on the FIA╩World╩Council but he remains an important figure in the region through the Vitesse 2000 association which he runs.
In addition to Mexico the hopes for a race in Las Vegas were boosted last week when Newsweek magazine reported that the city in Arizona may be part of Sylvester Stallone's plans for a major film about Grand Prix racing. Stallone is a shareholder in Planet Hollywood which has plans to enter the casino business in Las Vegas and twinning the casino with a race would obviously benefit everyone.
There continue to be noises from the Middle East with both Dubai and Qatar being mentioned but the country which is rumored to be pushing hardest for an event at the moment is Croatia.
Croatia gained independence from the former Yugoslav republic after a brief but bloody war in 1991. The leader of the Croatian forces Franjo Tudjman was elected president in 1992 and in June this year was re-elected for another five years. Tudjman has been busy trying to ensure that Croatia develops an international identity of its own. Only last week the Croatian state parliament - known as the Sabor - voted in a new constitution which rules out any association between Croatia and another country that could lead to the resurrection of a Yugoslavia-type state in the Balkans.
Tudjman is aiming to boost the Croatian economy with tourism, which was a major source of income before the war, the resorts of the Dalmatian coast bringing in $2bn a year. Tourism is recovering and is a major source of hard currency for the Croatians. There are direct motorway links with the Italian road system and plans for direct flights to Croatia from the major European capitals and the government has been investing heavily to upgrade hotels to woo foreign visitors.
Grand Prix racing would fit neatly into this policy and the plan has a strong and powerful ally in the form of Bernie╩Ecclestone's wife Slavica, who is a Croatian. The country also boasts a racing track which could be upgraded for a Grand Prix. The Grobnik circuit at Rijeka, in the north-west of the country, has been used for motorcycle events in the past and in July 1988 Keke Rosberg demonstrated a McLaren-Honda F1 car at the track as a promotion for Marlboro.
The idea of a Grand Prix taking place in Cuba does not appear to be as serious as originally thought. Niki Lauda did visit Havana recently with "a delegation", their apparent aim being to look at the viability of a track through the streets of the city. We understand, however, that the delegation had more to do with buying and smoking cigars - several members of the group were members of an unlikely F1 club known as "The Formula One Cigar Und Pipe Smokers (FOCUPS) and that Lauda joined in for a bit of fun.
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