I have just attended the United States Grand Prix in Phoenix and was amazed by what I saw, didn’t see and the comparison with European race meetings.
The Americans are meant to be the inventors of spectacle. If this is so, then I am afraid that they kept the formula secret from the Phoenicians. I suppose that, with that comment, I am being unjust to the majority of the 2 million inhabitants of Phoenix. I should really address my criticism to the organising committee. In the programme there is a partial list of the current members of the Phoenix Grand Prix committee” and this numbers 51 people in total, almost more than the spectators on practice days.
My complaints are quite simple. Firstly the total programme consisted of two races only — the Fl GP and a TransAm race! This meant that during the whole 3 days the track had only 3 1/2 hours of racing and 8 1/2 hours of practice. For race day there was only warm-up and the F1 race, 2 1/2 hours in total. The cheapest admission for the day was $50. Apart from boredom, this isn’t good value. It is even worse value for those who, like myself, paid $200 for the startline stand, which brings me to my second complaint. I couldn’t see the start! I could only see the tail end of the grid. The stand was extremely variable in viewing quality, ranging from a comprehensive view of the whole Start/Finish straight, the pits and turn 13 to a restricted view of turn 13 and part of the straight, as I had.
My next criticism focuses on information services. The commentary was spartan, unexciting and uninformed. In my stand the loud speakers didn’t work. The position indicator board was too small, only displaying up to 4 lines of information. Why were there no Starvisions, as in Europe? Why no FM radio commentary?
My final criticism is to do with publicity. I worked the week before the race in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix and most of the people I met knew fairly little about the race. The advertising in the airport and city was sparse, as opposed to overwhelming. In fact, in the Arizona Republic newspaper of 10th March, 1990, Bernie Ecclestone is quoted as saying, “The city has to work harder in promoting Phoenix. It’s why they brought the race here. They brought the race to promote Phoenix.”
To be successful in the competitive North American market, this event needs to be better publicised, better organised, to have a fuller programme and give better value for money. Birmingham has proved that this is possible with a street circuit in just a couple of years. Let’s hope the organising committee prove it in Phoenix in 1991.
B J Walsh,