Las Vegas Response


Your correspondents covering the Las Vegas Grand Prix seem, to me, to have overlooked quite a bit in favour in the circuit and the event.

Regardless of whether the entrants or press consider the circuit a “freak”, the fact is that the GP circus showed up and ran. From my point of view, seated on the straightaway before the pit area, it had everything going tor it. We could see virtually the entire circuit; we could see passing, we could see Mario Andretti break his suspension and crash a mere 100 yards from where we sat; we could hear and understand clearly the public address system; there were food and drink stands directly behind our grandstand, so getting a hot dog and a beer was easy; the infield was not crowded with photographers blocking the spectators’ views; the turns were clearly numbered and marked with a giant pylon with the turn number on it; there was no dust, no mud, no rain, no cold; no impaired view of the track and the action.

Having struggled to get to almost every major race at every major race track in the world over the past 22 years, including such European standouts as Le Mans, and the Grands Prix of every European country and principality, let me assure you that even with its apparent failings, GPs like Las Vegas are the wave of the future.

First, it is important to realise that the GP is there only as window dressing to draw big money gamblers to Las Vegas. In fact, in order to get to the track, one had a choice of walking around the Caesar’s Palace hotel, or walking through the casino. Naturally, most people walked through the casino, and some even dropped a dollar or two on the way through. On Sunday, there was an hour and a quarter between the motorcycle and CanAm races, just enough time for a friend of mine to hustle into the casino and drop a quick $1,000 at the tables. Believe me, the race is secondary to the gambling. If the race draws enough gamblers who drop enough money at Caesar’s tables, the race comes back; it not, it will be summarily replaced with a badminton tournament, or whatever else draws the big dollars.

Second, after having slogged through the mud at Watkins Glen year after year; after wondering who would come out of Druid’s first during the marvellous 1968 British GP race between Siffert and Amon; after wondering what happened to three cars that didn’t come around — or maybe they did, it was that long between laps at Nurburgring — and after hearing the cars and catching a small glimpse of one or two for perhaps 50 to 100 yards at Monaco; after sitting in an hours-long traffic jam trying to get into Monza, etc., etc., I cannot tell you what a relief it is to leave one’s hotel room (The Dunes, directly across the street from Caesar’s and $68 per night, and walk to one’s seat within 10 minutes! And then be able to hear the announcers and see all the action right in front of you, not hundreds of yards away. It was marvellous.

Third, it is important to realise that this sport is maturing in a very big way. Very few people in racing in the Los Angeles area gave the Long Beach GP a second year, must less a first. Who in Los Angeles ever heard of any of these drivers — Lauda, Reutemann, etc., or these cars — Lotus, McLaren, etc. But the event caught on and is now one of Los Angeles area’s biggest sporting events. The Ecclestones and others behind the scenes know full well that the show must play “uptown” in major marketing areas, not the rural Watkins Glens of the world. The sponsors, TV, and promoters demand it. The press and the entrants can bitch all they want about the “freak” circuits, but come the end at the year, their pockets are well lined from such unnatural activity.

Personally, living only a five-hour drive from Las Vegas, my wife and I had never been there, and had no intention of so doing. We didn’t go to last year’s inaugural Las Vegas GP, but watched it on TV. It did look “mickey-mouse” on TV, but not in person. This year we wanted to go, just out of curiosity, and I’m glad we did. We drove over Friday, parked the car at The Dunes, and didn’t use it again until we left Sunday afternoon. We saw Diana Ross put on a fabulous show Friday night, we lost a few bucks to Caesar’s tables, we went Saturday night to a typical “T & A” Las Vegas review show, we ate some excellent meals, we swam, we enjoyed the sun, we enjoyed the races, we had a great time — far, far better than I ever expected.

To summarise, I can hardly wait on next year.