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SEPTEMBER 22, 2005

A calendar mess

The news that Indianapolis is to host the United States Grand Prix on July 2 has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons amongst the Grand Prix venues in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship for 2006. This date traditionally belongs to the French Grand Prix and that means that France will either have to move forward to an earlier date or move back. The problem with going back is that the midsummer races are all on relatively traditional dates with Britain on July 16 and Germany on July 30, twinned to Hungary on August 6. There is then a two week break before the likely races at Turkey on August 27, Italy on September 10 and Belgium on September 17. This last event is late in the day for a race at Spa from a climatic point of view (witness the rain this year) and so it is possible, in theory if nothing else, that Belgium might move forward on the calendar and let someone else with a better climate take that date.

The front end of the season has similar problems because Spain seems to be settled on May 14 and Monaco on May 28. This leaves June 4, which the Nurburgring will obviously want. That means that April 30 is really the only date available as the mid-April date is expected to go to Mount Fuji in Japan. This traditionally belongs to the San Marino GP but crowds are down at all Italian races at the moment and it is increasingly difficult to justify two races in Italy, particularly now the Italians have stopped tobacco sponsorship. There was talk last year of France moving to a date in April but that never came to anything.

Normally there would be other races in June but it looks as though there will be a gap between June 4 and June 25 because of the soccer World Cup which starts on June 9 and runs through to July 9. There are three dates on which races and matches may clash: June 18, June 25 and July 2. June 18 is best avoided as there are three first round World Cup matches which will grab the TV viewers from 3pm until 10.30pm. On June 25 there are two races in the evening but a race in Canada would fit neatly between them. On July 2 there are no World Cup games at all and so Indianapolis would have no competing soccer. However in the United States the July 4 weekend is a big racing weekend and there would a NASCAR Nextel Cup race on July 1 at Daytona Beach in Florida (the old Firecracker 400 event) and there would be an IRL race at Kansas on the Sunday. Champ Car has decided not to race that weekend but will have an event in Cleveland on June 25 (which would clash with Canada) and another in Toronto on July 9.