Will it be F1 or Champ Car first into Greece? UPDATE #2 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car is sending an official to Greece (departing today we hear) to inspect the proposed street circuit in Thessaloniki and report back to Champ Car's Tony Cotman as to its suitability. We hear negotiations on a contract will begin soon.
04/27/07 As we reported during the Long Beach weekend, the Champ Car race in Athens, Greece is probably not going to happen. Olympic Property site in Greece (old airport), was only able to sign a three year contract. They are turning the site into a park and hotel complex, plus a water park where they had the canoe races during the Olympic Games. The limit of three years made to this location financially not feasible. We now hear that a Champ Car race in the 2nd largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki, is under consideration. The race would be called the Grand Prix of Thessaloniki.
We hear that the governor of Thessaloniki, Mr. Psomiadis, has worked very hard to accomplish this. The city of Thessaloniki and the whole region are behind this project we hear. In 4 to 6 years the city is going to build a permanent road course that will also include an oval and a drag strip. In the interim, a street race utilizing the Port of Thessaloniki and some of the surrounding streets is planned. The site is right by the water, and said to be very nice.
Thessaloniki is Greece's second-largest city and the capital of the Greek region of Macedonia and the periphery of Central Macedonia. it comprises 16 municipalities and according to the 2001 census it has a population of 800,746. The Thessaloniki prefecture has a population of 1,058,000 (2001).
Thessaloniki is a busy, vibrant city and it is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and cultural center as well as a major transportation hub in southeastern Europe. Its commercial port is of a great importance for Greece and for its southeast European hinterland. The city has two state universities that host the largest student population in Greece. As a cultural center, it is renowned for its large number of monuments of Byzantine architecture as well as for some main Ottoman, and Jewish structures. The city is famous for its International Trade Fair which takes place at the beginning of every September and it is the place where the Prime Minister of Greece gives a major speech to announce the governmental plans for the year to come. Thessaloniki is also renowned for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival which is characterized as the most significant cultural event in South Eastern Europe, attracting local and international celebrities of both cinema and theater.
01/20/07 Greece's plans to host Formula One races moved closer to completion this week with the signature of a decree setting out minimum track requirements, the Greek Automobile Club (ELPA) said on Saturday.
The decree signed by Greek President Karolos Papoulias will enable investors to claim support funding from the Greek development ministry, said ELPA Chairman Vassilis Despotopoulos.
"This decree enables investors to build something and subsequently apply for funding... it is not specifically linked to Formula One racing, but it facilitates... those wishing to build Formula One tracks," he told AFP.
[Editor's Note: Who is to say it is not for the rumored Champ Car track at the old Greece airport? Won't the F1-centric European press who wrote this be surprised when they find out? However, whenever Champ Car makes a move into a country Bernie Ecclestone always tries to beat them to it. We shall see what he has up his sleeve this time. Meanwhile this rumor spells out Champ Car's hoped for a race in Greece. Looks like Champ Car had better move fast to close that deal before Bernie gets the rumor mill churning again about an F1 race in Greece. But who can afford Bernie and F1 as there isn't a single F1 race promoter that doesn't lose money, big money.]
Greek developers have been clamoring for a local Formula One track for decades, arguing that a Grand Prix would enhance Greece's appeal to visitors and boost tourism, which is a leading source of national income. Interest in Greece rose further following the successful debut of a course in neighboring Turkey in 2005.
"I've personally been involved in this debate since 1968," Despotopoulos said, adding that a 'basic' track would cost 60-80 million euros and require two years to complete.
Hosts of the annual cross-country Acropolis Rally, ELPA have been working on a project to create a Formula One track near Orchomenos, a town of 5,000 people some 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of Athens, on 1,400 square meters of land allocated by the Greek state in 1992.
"We've been struggling on this project ever since," Despotopoulos said, noting that until now the Greek authorities were unwilling to devote funds to upgrading the road network around the small town.
The presidential decree has not been made public, but Eleftherotypia daily on Friday reported that it sets a race track size between 3.5 and eight kilometres, and a maximum distance of 80 kilometres from hotel accommodation of at least 2,000 beds. Source AFP
[Editor's note: According to this past rumor Bernie is looking far outside the city so it is quite possible this draft legislation reported today was designed to specifically cut off Bernie from doing a race track in a remote area of Greece. The local automobile club has been working on a plan to build a track at Orchomenos, 75 miles northwest of Athens on land that was allocated to the idea as long ago as 1992. Related rumor.]