US GP debut pleases George, Mosley, Ecclestone

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 22, 2000 -- Tony George, Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, three of the most powerful people in worldwide auto racing, all agreed Friday that Formula One racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway should continue...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 22, 2000 -- Tony George, Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, three of the most powerful people in worldwide auto racing, all agreed Friday that Formula One racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway should continue for many years to come. The trio of racing executives addressed the media for an hour before F1 cars took to the Speedway's new 13-turn, 2.606-mile road course to commence the first practice for Sunday's inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix. George is president of the Speedway. He worked for 10 years to bring Formula One and spent millions of dollars on a massive construction project at the facility to accommodate the World Championship series. Ecclestone is the president of Formula One Management and wanted the series to return to the U.S. after an absence of nine years. He and George had many meetings and negotiations over the years before a multi-year race agreement was reached in 1998. Mosley is president of FIA, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and oversees all international auto racing. He, too, has seen the need for a Formula One race in the U.S. and participated in the negotiations that brought the new United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis to fruition. "I would just like to thank Tony formally for bringing Formula One back to the U.S.," Ecclestone said at the conclusion of the press conference. "Without him, we wouldn't be here. That's 100 percent sure. We'll stay here as long as he wants us." And George wants the series well beyond what the contract states. "Even though every agreement has an initial term, I see this being a long-term opportunity for us and Formula One," he said. "Hopefully, it will help generate even more interest in Formula One so that one day, maybe five, maybe 10 years down the road, Indianapolis is one of multiple Grands Prix, Formula One Grands Prix, contested in the United States. I hope there's that much interest and following for it." The interest was obvious during the first practice day as fans filled many of the grandstand seats and packed into the grassy viewing mounds grouped around some of the road course turns. Country flags and F1 team flags were carried by many. "We're very grateful, and we're very excited," Mosley said. "I think this is somewhere where the World Championship can have a round for the foreseeable future; and we're grateful to Tony for what he's done." George assumed presidency of the Speedway Jan. 8, 1990, when he was 30. He had done some driving in Indy Lights and developed an attachment for F1 as he became acquainted with it. And he believed that the Speedway was the one track where a grand prix belonged. "It became increasingly apparent to me that what was lacking - not that the other events in Dallas and Detroit and Long Beach and Las Vegas weren't special, weren't unique. I think the temporary facilities present challenges, and I felt that a permanent facility was what was needed, whether it was Indianapolis or anywhere else. "I was interested in trying to make that happen, bring it to a permanent facility that was hopefully suitable for Formula One and the competition in Formula One. But I think it also helps that Indianapolis is recognized as the center of motor sports in the United States, and what better place to hold it than Indianapolis?" Ecclestone called George a "good negotiator." "You can be assured nobody has control over Mr. George," he said. "He's just been extremely helpful. Things are different, and he's been very, very helpful to make us feel at home and run things the way that normally it is for the rest of the World Championship." F1 has a totally different way of conducting its races in comparison to Indy and stock cars for the 500 and Brickyard 400. The security is very tight, and the garages are sacrosanct. "This is something that's very new for us," George said. "Anything new, you know, there's a learning curve that goes along with understanding it and perfecting it. I will not kid you, we have been challenged over the last two years in building the facility. We've been challenged in trying to adjust as needed to host Formula One, but it's working out well. "And as I recall back in 1994, NASCAR did things a bit different with regard to how they conducted their restricted areas and what not. It took us a couple of years to get used to that." Mosley pointed out part of the problem of selling Formula One in the United States is that the country has a high level of the sport in various forms, and F1 must compete with that. "In most other countries, it (Formula One) is the great motorsport event of the year," he said. Mosley, like George, indicated the primary problem with Formula One establishing a foothold in the U.S. has been its location on temporary street courses since it departed the Watkins Glen course in central New York. "Now, with any luck, there is a home, and I think it will build up," he said. "But it will take time. It's a different sort of culture. It's rather like trying to sell soccer in the United States. It takes time." And George, Ecclestone and Mosley seemed to hint they are willing to provide that time, with Formula One finding an American home at Indianapolis.

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Tony George , Bernie Ecclestone