JUNE 12, 1995
Vegas plans free Grand Prix
Tommy Baker was in Montreal last weekend and he gave F1 FOREIGN REPORT exclusive details of the race which will decide the 1996 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Baker has known F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone for 15 years and says that just over a year ago Ecclestone asked him to take a look into the idea of a race in Las Vegas. He revealed that the two had previously had talks with Disneyworld in Florida which twice offered to put on an F1 race.
If everything goes to plan the race will be the final round of next year's World Championship and will take place on November 10 - the Veteran's Day holiday weekend. The event will be known as United States Grand Prix - Las Vegas and will have as its slogan "Be our guest."
Free admission to the track could mean a vast crowd as there are 115,000 hotel rooms in the city, of which at least 20,000 will be directly alongside the race track. Baker says that the circuit will be at least 2.7 miles long and will include part of the main 12-lane Las Vegas strip. It will encircle no fewer than seven casinos. It is strongly rumored that Long Beach promoter Chris Pook will be responsible for the construction of the circuit, although Vegas will spend $10 million creating all the necessary barriers and bridges.
In addition to the innovative free admission, the proposal calls for a four-day meeting - as happens each year at Monaco - with first practice and qualifying on Thursday. Everyone would then take Friday off before final qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday. This will mean that the local hotels and casinos will make more money as out-of-state and foreign visitors will be able to enjoy the town as well as the race.
Baker says that he already has five casino companies and seven major hotels behind the plan and the city authorities are keen on the idea as they are trying hard to promote Las Vegas as "the Entertainment Capital of the World".
The success or failure of the race will not depend on ticket sales but rather on the business of corporate entertainment, which Baker says will be lavish. Ecclestone is more guarded in his comments but says that he is behind the idea of the race in principle.
The teams would probably have preferred a race in June, twinned with Canadian GP in Montreal, but instead it will form part of a round-the-world tour with the Japanese GP at Suzuka taking place two weeks beforehand on its traditional October 27 date. All the F1 equipment will have to be shipped from Japan to Nevada.