F1 again eyes Las Vegas

UPDATE #12 Hearing from F1 sources in Europe that the reason Bernie Ecclestone only signed a 1-year extension at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix is because F1 will indeed race on the streets of Las Vegas starting in 2008. A letter of intent has been signed.

One would assume that Champ Car's agreement with the city would be exclusive in that the city would hold only one street event. And it is true that Champ Car's agreement is with the City of Las Vegas.

However, "The Strip" is applied to the unincorporated areas of Clark County that surround the city, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip. This 4½ mi (7.2 km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is mostly outside the Las Vegas city limits, in the unincorporated town of Paradise. So it's quite possible that Paradise, or Clark County itself, could sign its own race deal.

Then again this could be Bernie floating the Las Vegas rumor again to get Tony George to sign a longer term renewal at the Speedway, which they are supposedly discussing.

07/21/06 Now that Champ Car has signed a 5-year deal to race on the streets of Las Vegas Bernie Ecclestone can forget about moving the USGP from Indy to Las Vegas. We doubt he was ever really serious about it and started the rumor as competition for Indy to extract more money from Tony George's bank account when they try to negotiate a renewal of the USGP deal.

02/28/06 A Las Vegas media source has played down the possibility that the United States grand prix could be raced on the famous city's streets.

As Bernie Ecclestone negotiates with Indianapolis' disgruntled officials about a new contract, he recently told an Italian magazine that an 'ideal' US alternative would be a street course along Vegas' fabled Casino 'Strip'.

But the 'Las Vegas Business Press' wrote this week that the chance of a US GP in the city is 'a long shot'.

The publication said its investigations have found that 'City Hall only received a single inquiring phone call last September', while the Visitors Authority and 'Las Vegas Event' have not been contacted at all.

However, it was reported last June that Ecclestone, the F1 supremo, entertained guests from Las Vegas at the Canadian grand prix.

But Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, reckons organizing a F1 race in the city race would be 'difficult'.

Christenson added: ''Our streets aren't really designed for it.

''There would be major infrastructure costs to get the streets ready.''

02/21/06 No talks are currently going on between Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, scene of the US GP debacle last June.

That is the revelation of Speedway spokesman Fred Nation, while the 'USA Today' newspaper reported that negotiations did not even take place about 2007 and beyond in the wake of the six-car race.

''(We) mutually decided to address the future after we see how this year's event goes,'' Nation told the newspaper.

Bernie, F1's so-called 'supremo' and the author of the annual calendar, told an Italian magazine last week that if he can not pen a new deal with Indy, he would try to switch the race to Las Vegas.

Fred Nation did not comment on whether he believed the 'Las Vegas' story was designed to put pressure on Indy to renew.

The spokesman said: ''That's (Bernie's) business, so we have really no reaction to that one way or the other.''

02/17/06 This rumor about Las Vegas probably means that Bernie is letting Tony George know that he has options as they negotiate the renewal of the USGP contract at Indy. As always, Bernie will squeeze Tony George, like he squeezes all race promoters, ensuring the Hulman-George family will continue to lose money on the Grand Prix while the FOM maximizes its profits.

02/17/06 Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he is considering moving the United States Grand Prix to Las Vegas in 2007, if a new deal with Indianapolis does not come off.

"The contract with Indianapolis expires this year, and I don't yet know whether there will be the conditions to renew it," he said in an interview with Autosprint. "I'm looking around for an alternative solution.

"You can forget the idea of going back to Long Beach, although I'd like a street circuit anyway, like in the 1980's. Ideally it would be a track in Las Vegas, obtained from the 'Strip,' the road with all the most important casinos. We are trying that, we're working on it."

"You know Bernie has tried very hard to have a race in Las Vegas and we have a few friends from Las Vegas visiting Formula One this weekend and I hope we start talking," said Flavio Briatore.

06/18/05 This Grandprix.com article gives more insight into the possible Las Vegas F1 race. Steve Wynn has spent $2.7bn to build a new mega-resort (Wynn Las Vegas), which boasts a 50-storey 2700-room hotel, a golf course, a three-acre lake and a retail area which includes a Ferrari-Maserati dealership. This went into operation a few months ago and pulled in revenues of $64.3m in its first month of operation. It is however largely unknown around the world, despite a major marketing push including a cross-promotional relationship with Societe des Bains de Mer, the company which runs the hotels and casinos of Monaco.

Wynn has plans to expand from the 217-acre site to build another $1.4bn hotel-casino, to be called Encore, next door to Wynn Las Vegas. This is scheduled to open in 2008 and with control of a large chunk of land and a golf course, Wynn is in a position to have his own race track, without needing the agreement of the other casino barons. Grand Prix racing also fits in with the high-end luxury market he is aiming for with the company, which charges $300 a night for rooms in Wynn Las Vegas. He also is building a $700m casino in Macau and is bidding for the rights to build another in Singapore.

It is thought likely that any event in Las Vegas would be in addition to the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis rather than in place of the event in Indiana.

[Editor's Note: We do know that Champ Car is also trying to do a street race in Las Vegas. It will be interesting to see who gets there first, but last we heard, Bernie wanted more for an F1 race than Steve Wynn was willing to pay. At one point there was talk of a Champ Car/F1 doubleheader. It's interesting that Champ Car and F1 are vying for many of the same markets now and we suspect that Bernie is beginning to worry a bit about Champ Car's international expansion ambitions and is trying to muck up Champ Car's negotiations by offering up F1 instead. Champ Car landing a race in Beijing sent a warning shot across Bernie's bow. Working against Bernie is the fact that he can't add any more races to the already over-full F1 calendar. In fact there is pressure to reduce it back down to 17 from 19, so that puts Champ Car in the drivers seat to take those new venues if they play their cards right. Working against Champ Car is the fact that it is still rebuilding and does not bring the prestige it may bring a couple of years from now.]

06/18/05 At Indy Friday F-1 chief Bernie Ecclestone said he has been talking to various Las Vegas businessmen about staging a second U.S. race there. "I want to have it on the Strip, or part of the Strip, anyway," he said. Indy Star [Editor's Note: We highly doubt Vegas will allow even part of the Strip to be closed.]

06/11/05 The possibility that America will stage a second grand prix stepped up a gear in Montreal. Renault's Flavio Briatore, a keen ally of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is – in Canada – notably playing host to a key guest from Las Vegas.

The flamboyant Italian was therefore asked if another North American F1 event was likely. ''I think so,'' he muttered.

''Bernie has tried very hard to have a race in Las Vegas so I hope (the guests) start talking. America is very important to F1.''

In 1981 and 1982, grands prix were memorably – if unpopularly – staged in the car park of a Las Vegas casino. Briatore said: ''It'd be magic to have another race in North America. I believe everybody would be happy about that.''

Remember we rumored a Vegas race over a year ago involving Steve Wynn and after our rumor there was an article in a magazine Business F1 or Cigar.

6/22/04 – More speculation on what Roger could possibly be up to in Vegas with Kerkorian. If Roger Penske can bring Kirk Kerkorian into this mix, however, these boys better "WATCH OUT"……………They would be dealing with a serious, major league, "heavy hitter" (and not an amateur "bungler" anymore like Tony George and his IRL!). A key to understanding Roger's past business dealings is that he very often "leverages" other people's financial clout in order to achieve an immediate goal. (All you need to do is look at GE Capital's role in his purchase of Hertz Truck Leasing – known these days as "Penske Truck Rental"! Also consider his 1988 "acquisition" of the Detroit Diesel-Allison Division from General Motors!) Roger has a habit of buying up "deadwood" operations that other multi-faceted corporations are more than happy to "unload"! Roger would tell Kirk, you be a "silent partner" and just let me handle the whole thing! If Roger follows his previous "modus operandi", he would have Kerkorian fund him in a buyout/merger of the IRL & Champ Car. (In the old days Roger used to be a 50% owner of Ilmor Engineering – when they developed the Chevy Indy engine for CART racing in the late 1980's. We don't know if he still has any ownership in them, however. We do know Mercedes Benz currently uses Ilmor to design & manufacture their engines for F1 Team McLaren! Do you know how Kerkorian started his "financial empire"? When Bugsy Siegel opened the first casino in Las Vegas (the Flamingo in 1946), Kerkorian started an air charter service between LA and Vegas. He made millions on that business (which he finally sold in 1966). Kerkorian is presently the 35th richest billionaire in the world (according to a Forbes magazine list)…………..Who's also on that list? Why, Bernie Ecclestone! Ecclestone would be a "perfect" counter to a Penske/Kerkorian funded move on open wheel racing! And who would be first to monetarily benefit in such a mess? Why Messrs. George, Kalkhoven, Forsythe and Gentilozzi!

6/17/04 – We didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle of why Roger was in Vegas when we reported it months ago……perhaps until now. In this rumor below we told you that Kirk Kerkorian now owns the Bellagio (and other major casinos in Vegas). Well as of today, his MGM company concluded a deal to buy the Mandalay Bay group of Casinos, which includes the Mandalay Bay and the next-door Luxor, both of which were part of the planned Champ Car street race. Kirk Kerkorian is also the largest private shareholder of Daimler-Chrysler and Roger has close ties to them and to Kerkorian. Roger stayed at Kerkorian's Bellagio for two days and played golf one day. Did Roger know Kerkorian was going to buy the Mandalay Bay, the casino that was going to host the Vegas Champ Car street race? Did Roger fly into Vegas to meet with his friend Kerkorian to ensure that after he bought Mandalay Bay the Champ Car race project would have a stake driven through its heart, i.e. dead on arrival? Roger is always one step ahead of the competition, so nothing would surprise us. As Danny Sullivan once said, when the music stops, Roger always has a chair.

4/28/04 – Autoracing1.com did some research and we learned that Roger stayed at the Bellagio for two days, and played golf one of those two days. Of course Steve Wynn built the Bellagio and your first thought may be that Roger was schmoozing with Wynn to see if there was anything to the rumored Champ Car or F1 race at his new Wynn Las Vegas property. However, Wynn sold Bellagio two years ago. Multi-Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who is the largest private shareholder of Daimler, owns it now. Wynn has no money for a race track now, barely enough to finish his new hotel. Bernie tried to get him to do a deal, but it was a bad business deal and didn't happen (bad for Wynn, not bad for Bernie of course). The chain of events for Roger in Vegas don't relate to the IRL as far as we can tell. You also have to consider that Bruton Smith is Roger's largest competitor in the racing business. Bruton owns the Vegas oval and a race in the city would probably irritate Bruton to no end, more so than Roger. Mark C.

4/24/04 – Ben Quinby reports that he saw Roger Penske in Las Vegas Sunday departing in his private jet. You'd think he'd be at the big NASCAR race in Talladega, unless of course this key oval track cartel player was in town to either visit LVMS about a 2nd Cup date, a possible return of the IRL to LVMS, or to undermine the rumored Champ Car race. If the latter, he's playing right into the hands of the rumored OWRS lawsuit against the cartel. Hmm…..

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