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2012-11-15 10:13

TOUGH BATTLE FOR F1: Eddie Gossage, president of the Texas Motor Speedway, which will host a rival Nascar event on November 18, said comparing the two sports (the opening of the F1 track is shown above) is like comparing 'apples and sausages'.

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AUSTIN, Texas - Americans have had a long-standing love affair with the car but the romance of Formula 1, that sets hearts of motorsports fans around the world aflutter, has never managed to get pulses racing in the US.

After a five-year hiatus, F1 returns for the 2012 US Grand Prix at the $400-million (around R3.5-billion) Circuit of the Americas, where Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel can clinch a third successive driver's title.

As jet-setters, high rollers and A-listers descend on Austin, the quirky Texas capital is gearing up for a week that will see an estimated $220-million (R1.9-billion) poured into the state economy.

LOCAL BUSINESSES BUZZ

Hotel rooms, if any can be obtained, are going at triple the normal rates while rental car companies are soldout and requests for reservations at one of the city's top restaurants are met with a laugh.

In the US, however, the appeal of motor racing's glamour circuit has somehow been lost on the country that sells more Ferraris and Porsches than any other. It is likely more eyeballs will be focused on Homestead, Florida on Sunday, November 18, 2012, where Nascar's Chase championship will be decided.

Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway, near Dallas said: "The truth is we find that there is no crossover.

"Nascar fans tend to look down their nose at F1 fans and F1 fans tend to look down their nose at Nascar. It's apples and sausages, it's not even apples and oranges they are so unlike each other. First of all road racing isn't an American sport, oval racing is.

"It's like soccer in this country. It has never succeeded and I don't think it will ever succeed because it is not our game.

"It's not an American sport and that is never going to change," Gossage emphasised

US GP A LUXURY

The US has been a market F1 covets but is also one that commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has viewed as more of a luxury than a necessity as the sport searched out new venues to expand its global brand.

But the teams, car manufacturers and sponsors have not been so cavalier about the importance of having a US race on the calendar with all of them keen to return to one of their biggest markets.

Once focused on wooing over Nascar and IndyCar fans, F1 now appears more intent on catering to its base in yet another attempt to crack the US market, with the Austin venue the 10th to host the race.

Gossage said: "They need to be here.

"It's the world's largest economy and F1 is a global sport so it's an obvious hole on their schedule."

CAN IT BE SUSTAINED?

Gossage, whose track attracts more than 140 000 spectators to each race, said he was unthreatened by F1's appearance in Texas and wished US Grand Prix promoters luck, then added they would probably need it.

"I think a lot of people were surprised about Austin; it isn't a large market or an international market," he said of the Texan state capital.

"I think it will be quite successful this year. The question is, can it sustain that success. You look at the history of F1 in the US and it has never maintained any degree of success in the last 30 years. I hope they can but it is going to be a challenge, they haven't made it easy for themselves."


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