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Formula 1 Indycar 19

Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

Next weekend in the heart of the Los Angeles basin I’ll have the pleasure of covering the 39th Long Beach Grand Prix. I’ve been to every one of them since Chris Pook launched the great Southern California street race in 1975 as a round of America’s Formula 5000 championship. Long Beach became a Formula 1 race the following year and was a round of the World Championship for eight years before switching in 1984 to CART and Indycars.

The first Long Beach GP, won by Brian Redman in a Haas/Hall Lola T332, was a rousing success and established itself as America’s best street race during its eight years as an F1 race. Long Beach thrived through the late 1980s, the ’90s and into the new century, drawing more than 90,000 on race day and just short of a quarter million people over three days.

indycar f1  Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

In recent years the crowd has dwindled substantially, but Long Beach remains a pretty good draw by modern standards. Regardless, it continues as one of the highlights of the US racing season and is always a pleasure to attend.

This year, Long Beach is the third round of the IZOD IndyCar series and it will be interesting to see if Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe can keep the ball rolling for Michael Andretti’s team. Defending champion Hunter-Reay won the weekend before last at Barber Motorsports Park and Hinchcliffe won last month’s season-opener in St Petersburg.

Despite its weak position in the American sports market, IndyCar is extremely competitive with less than eight-tenths of a second covering the fastest 24 of 26 cars at the Barber road course. So there are plenty of potential winners.

Without doubt, Andretti Autosport’s four-car team (Marco Andretti and EJ Viso drive Michael’s two additional Dallara-Chevrolets) faces some very serious opposition from Team Penske’s similarly-powered trio of cars driven by championship leader Helio Castroneves, Will Power and AJ Allmendinger, and from Chip Ganassi’s three Honda-powered cars with Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball on board.

indycar f1  Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

IndyCar’s agreement with Long Beach expires next year and there are rumors that Bernie Ecclestone, Zak Brown and Long Beach founder Chris Pook are attempting to buy the contract. Ecclestone and Pook are known to have met a time or two last year to discuss the idea and Brown expressed his interest in the pages of last September’s Motor Sport.

“There’s a lot of talk about a a third [US F1] race on the West Coast,” Brown told our editor Damien Smith. “I’m an advocate of F1 buying the Long Beach GP. I think I can facilitate that and I’ve been having those conversations. You can make an argument that Long Beach would be a good investment. It’s got so much heritage. One race [in America] certainly isn’t enough.”

One of Bernie’s few regrets is making the decision back in 1983 not to continue at Long Beach. It’s in the heart of Greater LA and a return to F1 would surely be good for F1 and help revive the race’s old glory and huge crowds.

For his part, Ecclestone is well aware of the value of the LA market. Recently, his daughters Tamara and Petra have been setting new standards for LA and London real estate paid for from Bambino Holdings, a US$4.5 billion trust fund set up by Ecclestone for ex-wife Slavica Rasic and their daughters.

indycar f1  Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

Petra paid the highest price ever for a home in LA County – $85 million – and then spent close to $20 million renovating the mansion formerly owned by TV producer Aaron Spelling. According to the New York Times, older sister Tamara is renting a home in Bel Air for $150,000 a month while she looks for a suitable $100 million home, “with lots of outdoor space so my dogs can play.”

The Ecclestone name is widely-known in LA, well beyond motor racing’s narrow corridors, and it seems all but inevitable that Bernie will buy the Long Beach GP for F1’s return to Southern California in 2015.

For more from Gordon Kirby, click here.

indycar f1  Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

Add your comments

19 comments on Will Bernie buy the Long Beach GP?

  1. Erik Verkaaik, 15 April 2013 09:34

    Perhaps I’m a sentimental kind of guy but an F1 return to Long Beach has always been one of my greatest wishes! Although it won’t give Jan Lammers a second chance in the ATS….
    Thank you for the nice story, Gordon.

  2. John Saviano, 15 April 2013 11:58

    Walking away from Long Beach was one of BE’s worst decisions. He damaged F1 in the USA and it still hasn’t recovered. Buying the Long Beach contract and rebranding it as F1 is such a “no-brainer” that, well … this is modern F1 …

  3. T Dugan, 15 April 2013 13:23

    When the rumors started that Zak Brown was being courted to become Indycar CEO, these comments of his were the first thing that came to mind. The braintrust at 16th and Georgetown have made an endless list of poor decisions, but installing someone who so clearly wants to succeed Bernie would rank right up there.

    As a resident of Los Angeles and long time fan of Grand Prix racing, the idea of F1 taking over the LBGP is a horrible way to start the week. In a few days, for a reasonable amount of money, I will be able to walk the circuit and watch Indycar and supporting series in the sunshine, and then walk through the paddock. That’s right – get right up close to the cars and mechanics and watch them work. The idea that I’ll max out my credit cards in order to be told “You can’t go there” at a F1 race leaves me cold. Of course, 2015 is an eternity away in Indycar terms, so I suppose I shouldn’t get too excited…

    On a final note, “widely-known in LA” should be edited to “vaguely known for their propensity to spend ‘Daddy’s’ money”. I wonder if I’ll remember this picture of the Ecclestone spawn when Spa is replaced with some non-descript circuit built on a billionaires private island.

  4. Rich Ambroson, 15 April 2013 15:14

    Have bribes already crossed hands?

  5. PeteH, 15 April 2013 17:11

    If Bernie buys it who will then pay Bernie to hold a race there?

  6. Rich Ambroson, 15 April 2013 18:09

    PeteH makes sense.

    Maybe he’ll buy the event to crush it since it and Watkins Glen seem to have angered him at some point. I guess successful American GP venues just aren’t his cuppa…

  7. Alex Milligan, 15 April 2013 22:42

    Am I the only poster to see the irony in BE’s daughters paying outrageous sums of money for real estate (so there is room for dogs to play??? – good grief!!), whilst F1 and all forms of Motor Sport are being urged to cut costs…….we all should acknowledge where BE’s fortune was made……….

  8. Terry Jacob, 16 April 2013 10:19

    Stick with IndyCar . You should always be careful what you wish for . Next years 1.6 turbo F1 won’t be an improvement on IndyCar ………………

  9. prof, 16 April 2013 16:19

    I hope I’m not the only one who finds the grotesque extravagance and pretension of these appalling creatures utterly nauseating. And I don’t just mean Bernie.

  10. dave cubbedge, 17 April 2013 16:12

    remember people, it isn’t the money, it’s the amount!

  11. Kimster, 17 April 2013 22:38

    People know there’s a street race in Long Beach every year. They don’t know who Bernie E or Chris Pook or Seb Vettel are. All they know is it’s called a grand prix, even though Beatle Bernie isn’t involved. And they don’t care either. Bernie has no traction in this market, but I’d love for him to take the race over. Still wouldn’t be able to afford a good seat, but whatevs.

  12. Simon, 19 April 2013 06:54

    Please, no more mention of those two ghastly women.

    How about one for the much missed Tony Brise driving the red Lola in the main pic…

  13. Terry Jacob, 19 April 2013 19:21

    F5000 cars , now there’s something to rouse the soul . Proper racing cars , none of this modern techno junk ………..

  14. chris b, 20 April 2013 06:40

    Gordon, wonderful memories, nauseating story re the corruption of money with no class, enough please.

    ah Long Beach, Alan Jones when Williams and Patrick got the FW06 working and its drooping nose, Gilles and those wings on the Ferrari, and that audacious overtaking – wonderful circuit, wonderful atmosphere, wonderful state,

    am contemplating visiting Austin for either MOTO or F1 and would be overjoyed if the following weekend was a race at Long Beach – now that would be amazing and ok, the bank would have to be very generous but what a brilliant experience

    p.s. Gordon, I read the article re Indycars wanting to construct their own cars again, which would be brilliant, any truth in this?

    many thanks

  15. Jim, 20 April 2013 09:04

    Keep F1 out and stay with Indy. Racing is far more exciting and accessible. With competitive US drivers in Indy again, it is ready to blossom. BE screwed up when he was greedy all those years ago and let Long Beach go. Live with it!

  16. Anthony (@PTaruffi), 20 April 2013 23:40

    >Simon, 19 April 2013 06:54
    >Please, no more mention of those two ghastly women.
    >How about one for the much missed Tony Brise driving the >red Lola in the main pic…

    I second, third and fourth that. What a titanically heroic performance his was there … the buildup to it, and the race, wherein he “broke the backs” of the Vel’s Parnelli Lolas of Andretti and A.Unser Sr., and Redman’s Chaparral Lola, before he dnf’d. He was a boy-prodigy like Jody, Kimi, or Lewis.

  17. Dick Richards, 22 April 2013 00:54

    A third US GP? Surely this is satire. Bernies’s partners in Austin and NJ must really feel reassured with this idea. Despite all investment in the other two venues, only one race has ever been run. Considering the chaos US F1 has suffered mostly under Bernie’s watch, how does he have the gall to suggest returning to a venue he abandoned, something like 25 years ago? ( I am not looking it up, this story is too crazy to bother).

  18. camilero, 1 May 2013 17:15

    “with lots of outdoor space so my dogs can play.” enough said

  19. Steve W, 8 May 2013 09:56

    Well, times have changed. If this goes through, let’s hope there isn’t an Ostrich race nearby…

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