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AUGUST 19, 2003

Hungary ticket sales decline

After a drop in tourism, the organizers of this weekends Hungarian Grand Prix will hope at best to match last year's attendance of 160,000 fans.

"A month ago, we were 35 percent behind last year's ticket sales but we've since made up much of that," Peter Gerstl, head of the ticketing agent Ostermann Formula One, told Reuters.

"We still hope we can match last year's figure."

The Formula One race is the single largest tourist event in a country that relies heavily on the revenues from the venue.

Hotels in and around Budapest still have rooms available as two years ago there were no vacancy within a 60 mile radius of the Hungaroring.

Gerstl says the decline in tourism since the September 2001 attacks on the United States was partly to blame for the drop in ticket sales. He also hinted that the results of the qualifying could attract more last minute fans to attend.

"A few years ago, if (Michael) Schumacher won pole position, we could count on getting another 20,000 German fans coming up for the race," Gerstl said.