Historic GP cars may run in Austin
There hasn't been a Formula One Grand Prix race in the United States since 2007, when the sport finished its eight-year run in Indianapolis, but owners and drivers continue to race F1 cars in this country.
Three weeks ago, they roared around Infineon Raceway about three hours before the start of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma in California. The week before, they competed in the final race at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the Mazda/Laguna Seca Raceway. What's more, the Historic Grand Prix is eyeing Austin, site of the planned 2012 U.S. Grand Prix.
"We would absolutely be interested in coming," said James King, co-director of Historic Grand Prix. "We'd have 30 cars at least."
The decade-old organization, which also held a race at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, likes to call itself the world's fastest museum. Its short races, about 30 minutes each, feature classic F1 cars built between 1966 and 1983. The fleet includes a Lotus 79 that Mario Andretti used to win the 1978 World Driving Championship, a Tyrrell 006 once driven by Jackie Stewart and a Lotus 49 B once piloted by Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill.
"The cars have a great pedigree. I think they have tremendous appeal for the fans," said Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway in California. "It's like going to an old-timers game and seeing Willie Mays or Joe DiMaggio — only they're throwing the ball just as hard as they used to. The cars are fast, they're loud and they're cool-looking."
They're also expensive.
"The value of the cars goes from a quarter million up to the Ferraris, which are worth $2 million apiece," said King, who races in a 1976 March 761. "The value of the car is a by-product of what it achieved, who designed it and who drove it."
The steep price tag for the vintage race cars is not the only cost involved.
"For a weekend, it's about $15,000 or $20,000, which doesn't include dinners and expensive wines. A lot of the drivers like to eat in nice restaurants," King said. "We'll get four- or five-star hotels. We did 100 rooms in Canada.
"It's not a poor person's sport," added Page. "They're hobbyists." The Statesman