An interesting move

DON PANOZ's plans to host the United States Grand Prix at Road Atlanta have been overshadowed in recent months by news from Las Vegas and because of Bernie Ecclestone's recent visit to San Francisco but it seems that the American pharmaceutical magnate has not given up the idea.

Panoz recently recruited Australian Bob Barnard to be director of Road Atlanta. Barnard is a civil engineer who designed and oversaw the construction of the street circuit in Adelaide. He went on to become involved with the Phillip Island and Eastern Creek circuit projects in Australia.

The 2.5-mile track, four miles off Interstate 85 near Braselton, 50 miles to the north-east of Atlanta, was inspected last summer by the FIA's Roland Bruynseraede and plans were discussed to upgrade the track - one of America's most dramatic - to F1 standard.

Panoz feels that the track is perfect for Formula 1 despite being rather remote from Atlanta, which has a population of three million. The city, however, has large low-density suburbs and so the residents are used to driving long distances. It also has Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport, which is one of America's busiest airports.

Panoz is planning to get the track up to F1 standard and then present a package to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, with the aim being to host a race in 2000 or 2001. Although Bernie says the track is too remote it is worth noting that he used to own it for a period.

Panoz had good reason to promote the facility. Not only is it next door to his huge 3300 acre hotel and golf club facility, Chateau Elan, but the area is also home to the Panoz Family car-building business, which is run by his son Danny. The Panoz Auto Development Company is currently engaged in an attempt to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.

In February Ecclestone said that he expected to be in a position to announce a United States GP within three months and admitted to having had talks with Dallas, Road Atlanta, San Francisco and Las Vegas. A decision about the race is Vegas is expected within the next three weeks.

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