The German GP at the Lausitzring

THE new Lausitzring in the old East Germany is beginning to worry the existing German circuits and last week's announcement that the track is listed on the 2001 CART calendar - with a provisional date of September 16 (the same day as the Italian GP) - has underlined that the local authorities are serious about grabbing Germany's top motorsport events.

The CART event is being supported by the regional government of Brandenburg, which has invested around $150m in the facility and now needs to attract big events to justify the money spent.

The Lausitzring is making no secret of the fact that it is bidding for the German Grand Prix in 2002 and while the Hockenheim authorities initially tried to brush the challenge off, it is now becoming clear that they may not be able to compete as they do not have the necessary backing to upgrade the track and to meet the financial demands of F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone.

The Lausitzring also has a number of important advantages over Hockenheim for a lot of the F1 sponsors. The track was designed to attract tourism to the scenic Lausitzer hills, which lie 60 miles to the south of Berlin, and so create jobs in one of Germany's poorest areas. The intention of the circuit was to attract crowds from the city, which has a population of 3.5m, but it is a very long way from Germany's other big cities in the west and the catchment area includes Prague in the Czech Republic (1.2m people) and the Polish cities of Wroclaw (641,000) and Poznan (582,000) which are much closer. These cities are very attractive to many of the big F1 sponsors which are targeting the old Eastern bloc.

The Lausitzring, which has a crowd capacity of 120,000, will officially open in August.

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