CHAMPCAR/CART: New Venues bolster 2002 schedule

DETROIT (December 3, 2001) - The CART FedEx Championship Series has tapped the second-largest metropolitan area in the world, one of North America's premier cosmopolitan cities and a top-25 market in the United States to attract projected...

DETROIT (December 3, 2001) - The CART FedEx Championship Series has tapped the second-largest metropolitan area in the world, one of North America's premier cosmopolitan cities and a top-25 market in the United States to attract projected combined crowds of more than 500,000 and add a combined $130 million to the respective local economies as new venues in Mexico City, Montreal and Denver bolster a strong 2002 schedule.

The Mexico City race, scheduled for Oct. 13 at the historic Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez facility, has the potential to have the most dramatic impact among the stellar trio of new events. Race officials are modestly projecting a race-day crowd of 180,000 and more than 300,000 spectators for the weekend. The economic impact is projected at $70 million for Mexico City, which encompasses a metropolitan zone that is the second largest in the world at 16.5 million people, trailing only Tokyo's metropolitan area that exceeds 20 million.

"We expect this to be the most successful race ever in Latin America, bar none," Grand Prix of Mexico director Ruben Saldivar said. "We expect to easily exceed 300,000 fans during the October 13th weekend."

The venue, situated in the northeastern part of the city just a few miles from the airport, is located inside a park called Magdalena Mixiuhca Sports City.

The park, opened in 1958, has facilities for more than 20 different sports including a swimming pool, track-and-field stadium, fencing arena and a major-league baseball stadium, some of which were used for the 1968 Olympics in the city. The track itself opened a year later and played host to numerous premier motorsports events, including a pair of CART races in the early 1980s. The new track length is expected to be 2.747 miles, with the lengthiest option being a 3-mile layout.

"The race is the result of a long process inspired in the dream, tradition and influence on Mexican sports and people's minds of the legendary Rodríguez brothers [Pedro and Ricardo, for whom the track is named] and other great Mexican drivers like Moisés Solana, Héctor Alonso Rebaque, Josele Garza, Michel Jourdain and, obviously, our star Adrián Fernández, through the support of commercial brands, media and the loyal fans of motorsports in Mexico," said Rodrigo Gonzalez-Calvillo, general director of Interamerican Entertainment Corporation which will promote the event. "We are proud to bring our drivers competing in CART to race at home, before the fans who have watched them grow and supported them in the last few years. As a fan and as a Mexican, I couldn't be more pleased [to be] part of this project to bring back the fastest cars in the world to Mexico City, the most amazing show in global motor sports: CART in the Mexican Grand Prix."

CART ran October events at this same venue in 1980 and '81, but it will have a different look to racing historians. Between $25 and $30 million in renovations are scheduled for the venue over a five-year period, including track resurfacing, construction of temporary grandstands for 130,000 people, restoration of the permanent grandstands for 50,000 people and construction of a new control tower and media center.

"This will complement that first race fantastically because there were so many fans that could not attend the Monterrey race," said CART driver and Mexican racing superstar Adrian Fernandez, referring to this year's season-opening inaugural event in Monterrey, Mexico, which drew an overflow crowd of 318,000. "This gives us the opportunity to divide the country, and all the fans that we have in the South and in the city will now have the opportunity to see us race. I believe this will be one of the biggest events in the history of CART."

The Denver event, a street race around downtown and Pepsi Center sports arena, landed one of the most sought-after dates on the 2002 schedule. The Grand Prix of Denver will be held over the Labor Day weekend - a slot formerly held by the Molson Indy Vancouver - with the race set for Sunday, Sept. 1 on a 1.65-mile layout in the state's capital.

Officials are projecting over 100,000 attendees over the course of the three-day weekend with a direct economic impact of $30 million to Denver and the Rocky Mountain region and an indirect economic impact of $150 million.

The Denver event increases the U.S. event total to 10 on the 2002 schedule and more importantly adds the 25th-largest city in the country with a population of 554,636. It will be CART's second foray into the city, having run street events in 1990 and '91.

"I am delighted to be a part of bringing Champ Cars back to Denver," said George Gillett Jr., chairman of the Grand Prix of Denver. "When they were here 10 years ago, the response of the fans was overwhelming; however, the location of that event, as we all know, created logistical difficulties. With this event in the experienced hands of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and located around Pepsi Center, we can deliver to Denver yet another high-caliber sporting event in the tradition of this great city and the State of Colorado."

Three-time FedEx Championship Series champion Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Team Rahal, and 1991 series champion Michael Andretti both competed in the previous Denver races and look forward to returning to one of the premier sports cities in the country.

"When CART raced in Denver in the early '90s, the event enjoyed incredible crowd support and open-wheel racing really captured the attention of the fans in what has become one of America's great sports towns," said Rahal, who retired as a driver in 1998. "With the combination and talents of [well-respected promoter] Chris Pook and George Gillett behind this race, I think Denver will quickly establish itself as one of the top events on the CART schedule."

"I'm looking forward to going back to Denver," said Andretti, who currently drives for Team Motorola. "It was a great market for CART when we raced there in the early '90s. The crowds were huge and enthusiastic, and it was a great setting for a Champ Car race. We'll have all those things going for us again next year, plus with Chris Pook involved you know it will be a first-class event. I think this will be a big plus for the FedEx Championship Series."

The addition of Montreal places CART FedEx Championship Series events in the three largest cities in Canada. Montreal, which ranks second with a population of 1,348,000, joins top-ranked Toronto and third-ranked Vancouver on the FedEx Championship Series' 2002 schedule.

The Montreal race is scheduled for Aug. 25 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a 2.747-mile permanent road course that has been used for the annual Formula One race since 1978. It is situated downtown on the Ile Notre Dame in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.

Montreal will close out the Canadian events, following the Molson Indy in Toronto (July 7) and Molson Indy Vancouver (July 28) on the schedule.

"Our commitment in Montreal will be the same as it has been in Toronto and Vancouver - which is to be one of the very best events on the CART FedEx Championship Series circuit," said Bob Singleton, vice president of Molstar Sports and Entertainment, a subsidiary of Molson Canada. "We anticipate attendance figures to be in line with the Toronto and Vancouver Indy events, which would result in a significant economic impact for the city. We are confident that Montreal will become a favorite stop on the CART circuit for drivers and teams as well as for race fans all over the world."

Should Montreal fall in line as expected with the successful Molson Indy events in Toronto and Vancouver, the event is expected to draw more than 160,000 for the weekend and have an economic impact between $29 and $30 million. This past season, the Molson Indy in Toronto drew 169,023 fans and had an economic impact of $30 million while the Molson Indy Vancouver drew 160,545 and an impact of $29 million.

"From the day I began racing in the CART FedEx Championship Series, I was hoping that Montreal would finally get a CART race, and now that Montreal is on the 2002 schedule, you can be sure I've got that date circled on my calendar," Montreal-born CART driver Alex Tagliani said. "It's going to be a very emotional time. There's a tremendous interest in motor racing and in the CART series throughout Canada as we have seen with the events in Toronto and Vancouver. Montreal and the province of Quebec are some of the hotbeds of motor racing in the country and I know that a lot of people are really excited about having the opportunity to witness the CART series first hand."

The three events increase the number of North American races on the 19-race schedule to 15, which includes 10 in the United States, three in Canada and a pair in Mexico. Events in Australia, Japan, England and Germany round out the schedule. The current 19-race docket is expected to expand to 20 or 21 races as negotiations continue with several U.S. venues.

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. Reigning two-time champion Gil de Ferran and former series champions Michael Andretti (1991) and Jimmy Vasser (1996) are among the stars who battle for the FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.

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Series AUTOMOTIVE , INDYCAR