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MARCH 8, 1999

George Down Under

TONY GEORGE, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, led a 10-member delegation to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, to see what lessons could be learned from the highly successful event in Albert Park. Indianapolis is planning for a race in 2000, although the date is yet to be settled. Work at Indianapolis is already underway to build an infield road circuit for the Formula 1 cars and George says he is confident that his event will attract a crowd of over 200,000. This would make it the biggest ever Grand Prix attendance. It is widely accepted that the first Hungarian Grand Prix in 1986 produced a similar sized crowd but it was impossible to be certain because many people in that crowd came over the walls at the Hunagaroring.

George told reporters in Melbourne that interest in motor racing is booming in the United States and said he is confident that the race will make a profit but he warned that the event might be Formula 1's last chance to break into the American market. "If the event is not successful," he said, "I think that you will probably risk losing the American market altogether." George said that he would like to see not only an American driver but also an American team and American sponsors in F1 in the longer-term.

The circuit which is currently under construction at Indianapolis will be as announced for the 2000 race but there already are plans being discussed to dramatically alter the track layout in time for the 2001 race. Circuit designer Kevin Forbes is considering adding an extra loop of track in an effort to create another overtaking spot at the end of the back straight.

At the moment this is only 1,600 feet in length and Forbes believes that by lengthening it and putting a faster corner before it he will be able to create a better overtaking point. If everything goes to plan the 2001 circuit will snake through a series of turns after leaving the oval at Turn 4 and then, rather than linking directly to the back straight - Hulman Boulevard - will go over a bridge and then curl around to the left inside Turn Three of the oval and thus join Hulman Boulevard closer to the chute between Turns Three and Four. This will mean that drivers will come onto the straight with slightly differing speeds, depending on who has cornered the best, and that speed will be carried all the way down Hulman Boulevard until the braking zone near the Museum, where passing manoeuvres will be possible.

George is still negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone over the date for the race and made it clear in Australia that he wants a date in early September which normally belongs to the Italian Grand Prix. "I think an autumn race would be ideal from a weather standpoint and from a timing standpoint," said George, "that would give us ample spacing between our events."

Ecclestone was hoping to twin the Indianapolis race with the Canadian Grand Prix in June.