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OCTOBER 27, 2005

Argentina aims for F1 race

The provincial government of the state of San Luis in central Argentina are saying that they want to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2007. They are currently in the process of revamping a local racing circuit which is known as the Circuito Rosendo Hernandez, named after a local hero who used to compete in Argentina's famous road races in the 1940s. The idea is to use sport to bring more tourists to the city of San Luis. The province boasts a population of only 367,000 people who are spread out over an area of 47,000 sqare miles. This means that the only real way to make the race pay will be to be funded by the government as ticket sales are unlucky to cover costs, even if tens of thousands of people fly in for the event.

The province is currently run by Governor Alberto Rodriguez Saa, who is assisted by his brother Adolfo who, in 2001, was briefly president of Argentina. That was in the middle of the country's economic crisis. He ordered payments on the country's $100bn foreign debt to be suspended and after seven days was forced to resign. He returned to his native province, where he had been governor for 18 years, and began to help his brother transform the sparsely-populated, cattle-raising state into a film-making mecca. The Ministry of Progress began offering funding to film-makers and since 2002 14 films have been made in the area where production costs are low and the scenary varied. The aim was to revitalise the economy and the Rodriguez Saa brothers have also invested heavily in new technology and roads with many areas now linked to high-speed networks.

The work has meant that the province now has the lowest unemployment in Argentina and the programme is now moving on to attract tourists by organizing big events and making the world aware of the attractions of the region. The city of San Luis was founded in 1594 and features a rich heritage and some impressive scenery within easy reach.

The first major step in this programme was the recent World Chess Championships in the city and there are now plans for a high profile tennis tournament and a Grand Prix. One of the assets that the state boasts is the autodrome and the government wants to use this to the maximum and is spending large sums to bring it up to international standard.

The Rodriguez Saa brothers have now contacted Bernie Ecclestone with ask for a meeting to discuss what is needed for a Grand Prix.

Argentina last hosted a Grand Prix in 1998 in Buenos Aires but the city ultimately could not keep funding the event.

The biggest problem for the San Luis government may not be the funding of a race but rather the infrastructure. There are a limited number of hotel rooms at the moment and only a small airport. The city is 500 miles west of Buenos Aires and 100 miles east of Mendoza.