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MARCH 23, 2002

Remember when?


Ten years ago a company called Motor Marketing International Inc. issued a press release announcing plans for the Marlboro Grand Prix of New York, the first automobile race to be held on the streets of New York City. The intention was for Indycars to race around a 1.14-mile track, at the base of the World Trade Center, reaching speeds of 165mph. The plan was there to be grandstands for 50,000 people and the minimum disruption possible for the city. The organizers even went as far as to predict that the race would generate $56m for the city. The date was set for July 11, 1993 and Mayor David Dinkins declared himself to be behind the event.

"Based on the success of similar races in cities like Detroit and Toronto, we expect that the Marlboro Grand Prix of New York will succeed both as a sporting event and as a much-needed boost to our economy."

Behind Motor Marketing International Inc. was Floyd "Chip" Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Inc., and his partner in the business IMG, the renowned International Management Group.

The announcement was the culmination of years of talks between racing authorities and New York City. Originally the plan had been for the city to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. In October 1982 in fact Bernie Ecclestone announced that a race would take place in New York in 1983. The New York Grand Prix Corporation was headed by Dan Koren with backing from construction barons Douglas and John Rosart. The contract, so Ecclestone said, was for seven years but the sites being discussed were not downtown but out in the suburbs: at Flushing Meadow in Queens, at Roosevelt Field on Long Island and at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The site chosen was Flushing Meadow and an event was planned for September 1983 but it soon became clear that there were legal issues which would delay matters and in the end Ecclestone decided not to risk a last-minute injunction and so the race was cancelled. In 1984 CART raced in a circuit laid out in the car park of Meadowlands. It was not a success and the public stayed away. The city, everyone agreed, was the place to be.

Ecclestone kept trying but in mid-1985 the plan was cancelled once and for all. Meadowlands went on being used by CART - and the fans continued to stay away - until the March 1992 announcement of a race in Manhattan. Six months later the event was cancelled, officially because the track was going to be too expensive to build.