SEPTEMBER 16, 2001
The US Grand Prix
FURTHER to our story last night about rumors that three major Asian companies had been forbidden from racing in the United States, it is now emerging that the companies in question - Bridgestone, Honda and Petronas - have not issued instructions that they will not compete in the United States but that they have instructed or suggested to their employees that they do not fly.
Honda issued a directive last week that none of its employees could fly anywhere. This was later modified for essential trips. The Honda F1 engineers travelled from Britain to Monza by train although we understand that they will be flying back to Britain tomorrow. The Bridgestone situation is believed to be one in which the company has suggested that the employees do not use US airlines. Bridgestone says that it has every intention of going ahead with the race as planned.
From a practical point of view there are still very serious problems with the logistics of getting everything to Indianapolis. There are seven Boeing 747 loads of equipment needed for the Grand Prix to go ahead with drama. The US authorities are insisting that all freight is x-rayed before being allowed onto a plane from Europe to the United States. The problem for F1 is that it takes a very large X-ray machine to do the job and there is only one in Europe which is big enough - and that's in Amsterdam. So in order for the cars to get to the United States they need to be returned to Britain, turned around rebuilt and with all the spares packed away by Thursday night so the freight can then be sent to Amsterdam on Friday. If all goes to plan it will be flown to the US on Saturday morning and will then clear US customs by Monday night. The additional problem is that big transporters are banned from running in Italy and France on Sunday night. It is expected that tonight one or two of the traffic laws in these countries may be "stretched" as the F1 teams run for home.
At the moment the race is on but everyone in F1 is worried that they will get all their equipment to the United States and then at the start of next week there will be military action and the race will then be cancelled. This would be a disaster.
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