George pursuing F1 return for 2009

March 6, 2008
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USGPNegotiations are heating up between Formula One and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials that could bring F1 racing back to Indianapolis in 2009. Speedway boss Tony George told an audience at yesterday’s IU Business Conference that he’d like to bring Formula One back in time for the Brickyard’s centennial celebration. The facility opened in 1909.

Just Marketing, an Indianapolis-based firm that pairs sponsors with motorsports properties, has been hired by the IMS to help sign a title sponsor for the F1 race. Just Marketing President Zak Brown said F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone and the series’ existing sponsors have a “strong interest” in returning.

“I know there’s been talk of having an F1 race at Las Vegas or Miami, but the Speedway is the only facility in the U.S. that is up to F1 standards,” Brown said. “Indianapolis is turnkey and ready to go. If the right sponsors can be put into place, I think this can happen in 2009.”

Brown said he and George had private meetings with potential sponsors late last year, and those discussions are progressing. Brown called interest among companies willing to fork over an eight-figure sum for a multi-year title sponsorship “fairly high.”

“I think F1 will come back,” Brown said. “At this point, I think it’s a matter of when, not if.”

F1 officials announce their schedule for the following year by late August. “We’d have to have a deal done by then,” Brown said. “The sooner we can make an announcement, the sooner [Speedway officials] can start marketing and promotions and selling tickets.”

If F1 races back into Indianapolis, Brown thinks it will stay for a long time.

“Tony wants to have F1 at his track for the rest of his life,” Brown said. “F1 is a huge global brand, and it fits with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s history.” George is 48.

The inaugural U.S. Grand Prix F1 race was run at the Speedway in 2000 before a crowd of more than 200,000. Attendance slid in subsequent years, settling around 100,000. F1 and Speedway officials were not able to agree on an extension after its 2007 running.

Do you think an F1 race can make a successful comeback at the Speedway?
  • Yes, both IMS and the city need to bite the bullet and get this deal done. Dealing with Bernie Ecclestone is a royal pain, but the revenue and international exposure for the city make it worth it.
  • F1 and IMS are a good match. It makes IMS the undisputed motorsports capital of the world to have the three top racing series there. Tony George has made considerable investments into making it possible for F1 to run here. It only makes sense to pursue it. It's good for the track, good for the economy, and I would think F1 would place high value in having a US based race....although they sure don't act like it sometimes. I do think it would be successful.
  • The truth is that Bernie wants people in the area to clearly know when there is a F1 race in town. Banners, advertising, celebrations, you name it. There also needs to be a corridor from the track, down the craphole of 16th Street to one of the main drags going south leading to downtown, where everything is overdone in F1 stuff. Teams and the powers that be stay in hotels downtown, and its a horrible drive to the track from there. With enough fanfare, providing Bernie with mockup images, the deal can be done. He wants to be king, so just treat him like one so we get the race back. Also - it makes no sense to put the burden on the IMS to pay for this - this is an international event at our local facility. Across the world COUNTRIES are paying for the race to be there, not just a corporation. The city/state should be able to kick in a few bucks, especially after dropping nearly $1B on a football stadium where, again, the real revenues from ticket sales go to the scalpers. If one race truly has a $100M impact on Indianapolis, an investment of $10-$30M by the state should be seen as a bargain. MAKE THE DEAL HAPPEN!
  • As much as I think it would of huge benefit for the city/state to step in, Tony would never allow it.

    All those improvements he has done on the brickyard he financed by himself. He has never asked the city for money or subsidies and I don't think he'll start now. I think getting city/state money involved takes some of his control away. As we've seen from Indycar, he doens't like relinquishing control.

    I would be ecstatic if this came back.
  • Great move by TG…important to the city for not only the F-1 race, but for other national and int’l events. Marketing story line for conventions and major events is “if F-1 has returned to Indy, we should look at the city as well”.

    Also, lets not lose sight of the fact that U.S. Open Wheel is the most competitive of all racing products. So now with the Champ-IRl merger in place, we need to begin thinking creatively how we can expand our market share. I’m sure that both the global fan base and the international sponsors will find that U.S. Open Wheel is much more competitive and interesting than the F-I extravagances. They are great events, although hardly competitive racing.
  • I think Bernie realizes he needs Indy. TG called his bluff of moving to Las Vegas or Miami. From all reports, he has come back a little humbler. I agree IMS needs to do better on marketing and sponsors. With NASCAR at the top of its game, IRL unified and ready to entertain with a full field +, the Moto GP bikes on their way, and the 100th anniversary of the track soon to be followed by the 100th anniversary of the 500 and the 100th running of the 500 over the next few years, it would be big for both F1 and IMS to have them back.

    Indy would cement itself as not only the motorsports capital with 5 of the biggest races of their kind in the world, but we would further entrench ourselves as the sports capital of the world.
  • I think it's great that TG is trying to get F1 back but I've got one question I've always wondered. Where does Tony get all his money? The IRL-Champ Car merger is costing him a ton, he's got the bikes coming this year and now he wants to bring the F1 circus back? How does he pay for all of this? The 500 and the 400 don't sell out anymore so I can't see him making enough profit from those events.
  • Hats off to Tony George for pushing for a Formula One return to Indy. Note that he's doing this on his own, without the support of the city.

    I'm guessing the car manufacturers - Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and BMW - have already pressured King Bernie to reconsider his hasty Indy exit last year as the US represents their biggest sales market.

    What cracks me up is the city of Indianapolis' inability to recognize how important an annual F1 race is to the local economy. Hotels and restaurants all reported their biggest sales during the F1 race weekend.

    Instead of pursuing the one-time NFL Super Bowl, the city should put some $$$ towards marketing & promotion so as to secure F1 in Indy for years to come.
  • Sandman - do the math. Two huge races each year. They don't sell out, but you can bet they bring about 250,000 fans each. With the average price of a ticket ($85), suite packages, concessions, sanction fees, sponsorship, etc. I bet each race brings close to $70 million. Running the IRL may not be a loss as some assume it is. Each track is thought to pay a $1m sanction fee and then there is the TV package purchased by ABC. The George's also have other business ventures and likely have deep pockets beyond their racing venture revenue. The merger was said to cost about $30m, no problem for him.
  • King George and IMS did little to market the F-1 race when it was here because it wouldn't take much to make it the second biggest event at the Speedway after the Allstate Brickyard. I hope those in attendance at the Business Conference were on the edge of their seats listening to the self made Messr. George and his legendary speaking skills.
  • I agree. F1 is great for this city and we should be spending as much effort or much more for it as we do the Super Bowl. There's much more ongoing and repeat revenue by getting F1 back in Indianapolis at the IMS where it belongs. Ecclestone is a giant crankshaft to work with, but let's get the deal done. Tony George is the person to do it.
  • It's a great opportunity for a European-based sponsor to gain some traction given the favorable exchange rates. A Euro would go a long way in Indy!
  • The minute TG accepts money from the city or state, he has to open his books to the public. He also will have all kinds of city/state politicos wanting to stick their nose into the Speedway and George family business. Ever wonder why The Masters is and presumably always will be an invitational and not associated with a charity or the PGA? Outside intervention, same as TG.

    As for Bernie, remember he sold just south of half his F1 empire to a consortium of banks (2004?) He now has to deal with people who expect the highest net profit he can get them. It was reported that TG would only go $15MM (his money). Shanghai: $30MM (gov't/tax payers). Which do you think the other owners would say???????????

    As for public/private funded races, only two (now one) is privately funded: British GP (BRDC and sponsored by Sandanter) and the USGP.
    TG needs a title sponsor....ING?
  • I would love to see F1 back in the U.S. but not at Indy, that track with all of its tradition is not a good open wheel track. Indy is boring and as we have all witnessed, attendance has gone to the toilet. MILLER motorsports Park in Utah would be the best fit. The place has incredible facilities and its very close to a big city.
  • Utah? F1 in Utah? Really? Wow, lets see how well them furners like it when they run into the Mormons. Limited alcohol sales alone would be enough to prevent it from being there.

    Indy a bad place for open wheel? You do realize open wheel racing was born here.
  • People around the world have heard of Indy because of racing. That's part of the draw for foreigners coming to the race. They don't see Utah synonymous with the racing capital of the world.

    With that said, the previous track configuration has been pretty weak. I think the changes in the (traditional oval) first turn for the motogp will make the race a little more interesting.

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