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MAY 12, 2003

Mexicans dream of a new Grand Prix

The government of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsular, has ordered a feasibility study into the possibility of staging a Mexican Grand Prix at a purpose-built circuit near the city of Cancun, a famous resort on the Caribbean coast. The Mexicans are reported to have sent a delegation to the recent Spanish Grand Prix to discuss the possibilities with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. The Quintana Roo government is hoping that the investment in a race would bring the area to international attention to a greater extent and attract more people as the tourist industry has suffered from the decline of air travel that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Flights between the US and Canada and Mexico have reduced dramatically and tourism has suffered as a result despite the fact that flight times to the major US cities are very reasonable (three and half hours to New York, four and half hours to Los Angeles and one and a half hours from Miami).

Even with the problems the Yucatan Peninsular remains the most popular part of Mexico with its beaches, jungles, ruins, and colonial-style cities, and development has continued to the south of Cancun, along the coastline which is known as the Riviera Maya. The apparent aim of the racing circuit is to ensure that growth is maintained.

The project will almost certainly need government support if it is to be a success but it is worth noting that the entire development was started by the government in the 1960s when it was decided to try to boost the economy of the region by promoting tourism. The city of Cancun today boasts 500,000 and has 25,000 hotel rooms and around 200 flights arriving each day. It is estimated that there are three million visitors a year. The main tourist season is in the winter months and there is potential to increase the numbers in the spring and the autumn.

Mexico has not been on the F1 calendar since 1992 when F1 departed the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City for the last time. The city was never a very popular F1 venue with the F1 circus but in recent years the autodromo has been rebuilt and is now hosting Champcar races.