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Setting the record straight on CART's German 500


 by Mark Cipolloni
July 8, 2001

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In recent weeks we have been asked why AutoRacing1.com reports that all is well with the German 500 race, yet other reports say the race is in trouble.  I contacted Hans-Jörg Fisher, the President of Eurospeedway to find out what the 'real' story was so we could put the false reports to bed once and for all.  This is what he told us, and you will find it's pretty much as we previously reported.

The Eurospeedway is a 2-mile tri-oval similar in shape to Pocono Raceway.  Note the infield road course.  In case the entire weekend were to rain out, CART should have the teams pack road course wings, gears and rain tires as a last-resort contingency plan to run the road course rather than cancel the race. Ditto for England.  Surely CART can't afford another cancelled race this year!

The financial difficulties encountered in the past months by the Berliner Bank AG (majority owner state of Berlin) major shareholder of the Eurospeedway Lausitz, does not infringe in any way or manner the operation and commercial viability of the race track.   All decision makers concerned in that matter have voiced their strong and undivided support that the future of the Eurospeedway Lausitz is not in jeopardy, regardless of any possible restructuring process of the Berliner Bank AG.  The economical importance of the race track for the entire Lausitz region is a politically approved fact.  Hans-Jörg stressed - "statements in regard to reported failure of payment of our contractual financial installments to CART are false.  Eurospeedway Lausitz has abided to all its contractual financial obligations.

Any information in regard to a reported "management shake up" are false.  The entire Management and staff of Eurospeedway Lausitz, as well as their Partner "Deutsche Entertainment AG" continue to work enthusiastically on all projects on the race track, with special emphasize on the upcoming "German 500" preparations. 

Their event partner Deutsche Entertainment AG, Europe's largest publicly listed Entertainment group has been instrumental in providing the required marketing and promotional support for the "German 500".  The promotional budget alone will exceed 4.0 million Deutsch marks (about $1.7 million US dollars) .  

A 3-day 'American Show and Entertainment Extravaganza' during the weekend of the 'German 500' is intended to provide the fans and spectators with a taste of " all things American".  Provided the weather cooperates, they anticipate this Extravaganza to be a big hit with the eastern European fans who long for anything 'American.' 

Eurospeedway President Hans-Jörg Fischer

The contractual situation between CART and ESPN on one hand and the ruling of the European Union stating that TV rights belong to the race tracks has been a subject of ongoing discussions.  The tracks inability to negotiate directly for a live coverage contract with a German television broadcaster has significantly reduced the revenue sources available for the Eurospeedway.  However, according to indications made to Hans-Jörg by CART and ESPN, a TV-deal for the German race will finally be announced in the days to come.  The series European broadcaster, Eurosport, has not included live-coverage of either the Eurospeedway or the Rockingham race.  We have also spoken to CART about this and they have assured us a Terrestrial TV deal is close at hand.

Now for the really good news.  Ticket sales are proceeding presently as scheduled, despite the fact that the race date is scheduled right at the end of Germany's vacation period.  Ticket sales have really picked up now that they have begun promoting the race, and are in the vicinity of 2.500 weekly, over two times faster than before the promotion started.   42,000 tickets have already been sold And they anticipate conservatively 65,000 to 75,000 spectators on race day in 2001 (out of a total of 90,000 seats). 

Eurospeedway can not rely 100% on the people living in the region to fill the stands! They are now promoting the race as a national and international event.  They will have spectators from all over Germany and a lot of Europeans, Swedish, French and Italian Fans, especially Italian fans he tells us.  CART must view this with keen interest - a lot of Italian fans even at the German race on the same weekend as the Italian GP.  [We have strongly suggested to CART that they get Maserati on board and schedule a CART race in Italy as well.  It would be a huge success and keep CART in the news in Europe that much longer].

A = Gold 1 $212
B = Gold 2
C&G Upper = Gold 3
C&G Lower = Silver
D, E, F, H Upper = Silver
D, E, F, H Lower = Bronze
S = Standing room only

The Eurospeedway ticket price range is structured so that everybody can afford a race day ticket, even those from Poland and the other poorer surrounding countries. The lowest price starts at 50 DM (about $22 US). Kids only have to pay 50% of that price. This lowest priced ticket allows access only to their standing room only stand at the opposite end of the track. The ticket range goes up as follows:

Green (Standing stand) 50 DM ($22)
Bronze (Seating stand) 100 DM (44)
Silver (Seating stand) 250 DM ($108)
Gold 3 (Seating stand) 350 DM ($151)
Gold 2 (Seating stand) 395 DM ($171)
Gold 1 (Grandstand) 490 DM ($212)
Paddock access is 45 DM ($19)

Although the really 'good' seats seem expensive, that is a 3-day price and represents an average of 65% of the comparable F1 ticket prices the German and European fans are used to.  What many Americans don't understand is just how popular open wheel racing is in Europe and elsewhere in the world.  It's even more popular than NASCAR in the USA.

Sales of track side suites are now picking up after an unexpected slow start. 

100,000 were on hand when Bryan Herta did his demonstration laps for the Grand Opening

Although Honda of Europe has signed on to be the 'Official Car of the German 500,' sponsorship sales are low, both Title and Presenting sponsorships have not been sold. This is undoubtedly due to:

1.) The lack of German TV coverage up to date
2.) The difficult situation created by the negative publicity for the race track in connection with the Berliner Bank AG
3.) The broader publics (and sponsors) lack of knowledge about US-American Open wheel racing in general and CART in particular.

The promoters of the English CART race and the team of the Eurospeedway have established a constructive way of collaboration and mutual understanding.  The displayed goodwill has reduced the organizational and financial burden for both racetracks. 

You may not be aware that the track has already hosted several events this year: 
1. German Motorbike Championship 
2. German Top 10 Touring Car and Formula Series incl. the new V8-Star Cup 
3. Superbike World Championship (83,000 people showed up for that weekend) 
4. AC/DC Open Air concert (1 day event with 62,000 fans in the paddock) 

Before the German 500 there will be another German Top 10 race weekend and the DTM series on August 12th. Two weeks after the German 500 they will host the Truck European Championship at Eurospeedway. Apart from these events their facility is completely booked until the end of October this year. 

In closing, Eurospeedway is doing just fine thank you. For an opening year race to get 65,000 to 70,000 spectators, they must be doing something right.  Imagine what they will get in 2002 and beyond when they see how competitive the CART series is compared to F1.

With ticket sales going well in England as well, CART's future in Europe looks bright indeed!

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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