Long Beach Grand Prix founder Chris Pook (below) visited last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. Pook kept a low profile at Monza but fierce rumours erupted this week that Pook is pursuing a plan to create a new United States Grand Prix somewhere on or near the west coast. When I spoke with him after he’d flown home to California at the beginning of this week Chris chuckled at the suggestion, claiming he was in Italy strictly on motorcycle racing business.
“I was in Rome on Thursday and Friday morning visiting with my friends at the Flammini Group,” Pook said. “As you know, I represent World Superbike in the USA and I was there for some meetings with Mauricio Flammini and his people. So I took the opportunity to go up to Monza on Saturday, just to have a look at F1 and to have a visit with Bernard, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.”
Pook said he was unable to get around the paddock as completely as he preferred because he was at Monza for such a short period of time. “I was only there for one day and of course it rained as well and I didn’t get to see a lot of my old friends. That place is fast in the rain, my God! And that Vettel kid is something else, isn’t he?”
Since I first met him almost thirty-five years ago Chris has always been a big race fan as well as a successful event promoter. He probably has more passion for racing and more knowledge of how F1 works than any other man in America and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he would be the ideal man to revive the United States Grand Prix.
But Pook refused to respond directly this week to a question about whether he is actively involved in trying to put together a new world championship F1 race in America. “You’ve got to have an incredible venue,” was all he would say. “I think it’s fair to say that there aren’t any existing tracks or facilities that could do the job.”
I asked Chris if it was true that Palm Springs in California was a possible site. “I don’t think that would be workable,” he said. “But I really don’t know anything about it.”
Pook said he was very impressed with what he saw at Monza in his first visit to an F1 race in a few years. “The paddock is really impressive,” he remarked. “The hospitality and the level of presentation has risen to an amazing height. They’re pulling in investment from around the world – China, Russia, the Arabian countries. It’s staggering and it just doesn’t stop. It’s the premier global series, without any doubt, and I was staggered as well by the number of Americans there were at Monza.”
Pook pointed to Montreal’s Canadian Grand Prix as a fine example that F1 can be successful in America. “Look at Canada. Normand (Legault) pulls 115,000 people there for each of the three days. So it can be done. You’ve got to have the proper venue and proper track.”
Again, I believe Pook is the perfect and only man to revive F1 in America and build a new United States GP into a long-term success. I hope there’s fire behind the smoke.