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America’s closest nod to a Monaco Grand Prix location has been Long Beach and it was a staple on the CHAMP car calendar as well as, now, the Indycar calendar. That Indycar race is usually the most popular of the season outside the Indy 500. That contract, however, is due to expire next year.

To those ends, a few folks in the press have pondered the idea of a Formula One race there instead of renewing the Indycar contract. Some suggested that our friend Zak Brown and his colleague, Chris Pook, were attempting to buy the contract from current owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe (both former CHAMP car men). According to Kalkhoven, that isn’t the case:

 “Gerry and I are not interested in selling Long Beach” and would only consider it if “stupid money” was on offer. Jim Michaelian, the president and chief executive of the race added that “this is a story that keeps bouncing around every year or so, despite the fact that the race isn’t for sale and there’s been no contact between anyone and Kevin about a sale.”

The term “stupid money” is all relative here. No matter what Brown and Pook could offer, if F1 is behind the interest, it could offer a decent price and one has to believe that whatever that figure may be, it has to be on par of eclipsing what Indycar can afford to pay.

Is Formula 1 speaking with anyone about a potential west coast race at Long Beach? Ecclestone says they have:

“We are not in deep discussions with Long Beach but we have spoken to them,” he said.

Ultimately it boils down to one thing: Who can get the cash and sanctioning fees first? New Jersey is still muddling through the idea of hosting a race (which was supposed to happen this year) and Long Beach could be a contender of the owners want to spend the money but I don’t see current ownership forking over those kinds of dollars for Ecclestone circus.

Could it happen? It could due to the waning interest in Indycar. Our friend, and veteran reporter, Gordon Kirby said:

“This year’s race drew 375,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network in the United States, down 20% from 468,000 last year. Through this year’s first three IndyCar races NBCSN is averaging 343,000 viewers, 10 times smaller than a typical NASCAR race. Twenty years ago, when Nigel Mansell was racing for Newman/Haas in CART’s IndyCar World Series, the domestic TV audience for CART equalled NASCAR, but those days are long gone”.

It could stand to reason that a joint venture between Brown, Pook and Ecclestone could see the F1 machine roll into LA in 2015 but like all things, money talks and pride is a killer. If Kalkhoven wants stupid money from F1 prospects but isn’t getting that from Indycar, one has to weigh the future reality and consider his options. F1 may be a better answer in the long run.

What do you think? Would Long Beach make a great location for F1 to return too? Can lightning strike twice?

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • charlie w

    I would not count F1 at Long Beach ever happening. I have heard from Chris Pook in past interviews that he would never enter a deal with Bernie Ecclestone after past experiences with the man. Pook has a long memory from the early days of Long Beach, F1 and one Bernie Ecclestone. Pook simultaneously saved and doomed the late great ChampCar series.

    • I’ve read similar comments Charlie. Agreed on the Pook impact of CHAMP. :)

  • James F.

    I think with full certainty that Long Beach would be an excellent addition/return to the season. Formula 1 would be well served by connecting as directly as possible with Southern California where there is still a colossal sector of gen X, Y, Z etc that still cares about cars and car culture. Add that to the fact that Long Beach has SERIOUS infrastructure that could(does) hack a race weekend. Better, I would guess, than any other historic street or purpose built (non oval) circuit in North America.

    Now I still think New Jersey would be great. But I have a feeling that Sandy pushed that race prospect firmly into zombie status.

    With NBC Sports covering both Indycar and Formula1 It would be some sort of magical fever dream for those guys. Especially(yeah this is a reach)if you could get both series running the same weekend. In fact I bet NBC would take on race sponsorship if the ducks would line up. Such a move could mightily bolster (if not save) Indycar.

    But they almost certainly wouldn’t. As too many egos would have to chose the greater good/fantastic piles of money. over their feelings. But if any side could make it happen, NBC is the key.

  • Rapierman

    Ecclestone has to balance the potential income against the potential outlay of the race. If memory serves me correctly, the original Formula 1 race was much more extensive at Long Beach than the current CHAMP/IndyCar version, both in terms of layout and in terms of infrastructure. If Ecclestone were to somehow buy the contract (and I’m not holding my breath here), he’d have to spend millions of dollars just to bring everything back up to F1 standards. Ultimately, the amount of profit realized might not be enough to justify running the race.

  • Fred

    While Indy car maybe down on viewers and interest I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that relation by going back to F1 and then having it fail again. Still it’s business and egos. Personally I don’t think NBC/Comcast has the will to buy into this mess.

  • Bob Clarke

    Long Beach is an F1 crashfest I hope to miss every year. In places, the track is a two-lane, bombed-out wreck. The racing (in my opinion) is get-in-line-and-wait-for-the-guy-ahead-of-you-to-hit-a-barrier… Have you SEEN the roads in Southern California since the “depression”?

    If you’re gonna do another USGP, why not in Georgia??? Why not modernize Sebring? Why not Road America, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Monterey or Watkins Glen? All could probably be improved for less $$ than dealing with the post apocalyptic patches of concrete that California calls roads!

    If you really want to do a different kind of F1 race, do it on California state route 36, from Red Bluff, over the mountain to the redwood coast, and back again. Now THAT would be a street race. The California PanAmerica.

    Perfesserbob

    I suppose Long Beach could be improved. We could “bag” the cars, put them on 22″ wheels and let them go round like hoopties, rocking tunes out of big subs. That would be more like Long Beach as it was when I lived there.

    • Fred

      I know my brother in Eureka would appreciate the improvements to that highway it would require.

    • F1derbar

      I second your comment – watching Indycar race the Long Beach circuit is BORING. F1 would never, ever, ever race on that course.

  • KevinW

    No way, not a chance. Long beach simply could not accommodate current FIA specifications. Media pundits need to stop making up news and focus on reporting reality.

  • tomfirth

    For F1 to go to Long Beach, Long beach would not be the circuit is is anymore, for a start the pitlane currently is curved, forget the fountain roundabout and features that make long beach recognisable currently, F1 wouldn’t have it for safety grounds. The cost would be astronomical to make it F1 standard.

    I have also heard that Zak Brown denied the same as Pook, Further more would Kalkhoven sell out on Indycar given he is a team principal himself for KV ? Surely losing an asset like long beach would damage his business interests in more than just Long Beach.

    Indycar for all it’s fault creates strong racing and still has more viewers than F1 in the US based on tv ratings on the same network currently.

    Both series are tied into deals on NBC SN and the network in terms of exposure is barely a blip in the ocean compared to the networks NASCAR attracts such as FOX.

    The CART days are long gone but the ratings for indycar are level with the ratings it got last year over the three opening races apparently, because St pete was alot high and rather worryingly for both series the long beach ratings where the second highest for the week that NBC SN got.
    I just can’t see Bernie paying for it personally with FOM funds, its just not how F1 works and an outright buy is the only way I can see him getting Long Beach.

    If anyone replaces Indycar at long beach, which it may well do very soon in my opinion it will be the new US Sportscar series, NASCAR would have a chance to compete against F1 for cash to outbid them if F1 did want long beach so much.
    ALMS currently runs on the same weekend as indycar at the track so it already has the on-site fanbase to become the main event.

  • Rapierman

    So, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that F1 finally got New Jersey going. Does it really want a third race? Should it have a third race? If there were a third, where would it be in the West? How ’bout anywhere else, for that matter?

  • The talk I’ve been hearing centers around Bernie/FOM actually buying the race and building a track at Long Beach next to the Queen Mary (or QE? I can never remember). Not gonna happen, imho, & is purely posturing for the IPO, to pressure the New Jersey guys to pay up, or both.

    Bernie doesn’t pay tracks for races. Tracks pay Bernie for races.

    Would it make a good place for F1? The setting is great, but that track as it stands now is so bumpy & narrow, it would suck for F1. It sucks for IndyCar & ALMS as it is.

  • MIE

    Most likely this story has been released to put some pressure on New Jersey. As Tim says above, Bernie won’t pay money to promote a race when promoters are queuing up to pay him.

  • danfgough

    I don’t have much knowledge about Long Beach past or present, but Bernie certainly isn’t in the business of forking out to get any particular track on the calendar.

    However, on the wider topic of F1 in America, the theory this side of the Pond is that F1 doesn’t just need 2 races in America but needs probably 6 races in the Western Hemisphere to build a fan-base around a decent TV deal. So you would have Canada and US race 1 back to back (That was what New Jersey was for), then Austin, Brazil, and the much talked about Mexico and Argentina races. I think 3 in America would be an interesting idea but for the 3rd they would surely have to invest in getting an existing circuit up to spec.

    You would then have 6 races in the west, 7 in Asia and the east and 7 in Europe/Middle East

    • Rapierman

      That would kinda work toward an idea I had: 9 races for each season (Spring races, summer, fall, winter), only…I guess Bernie’s shooting more for 6 per season (24 total), based on ideal climate continental regions per season.

  • PZ

    I would love for F1 to return to Long Beach. Bernie never should have left. However, the money which would be required to get a course along Shoreline up to F1 standards would be massive. I can’t see anyone, even Bernie, willing to spend that kind of money.

  • DrizzleF1

    I wish the F1 circus would go to Las Vegas. If they could somehow do a night race there on a street course that incorporated the strip, I think it would a tremendously popular race both here in the US and abroad. Imagine those car screaming down the Las Vegas strip under the lights. I doubt it would be possible, but still fun to imagine.

    • tomfirth

      Long as its not the car park again hey ;)

  • Rik

    The only thing that Long Beach can offer is a safe Proximity to MEXICO for the Mexican market. Bernie would not have to pay for it if Carlos Slim’s son is willing to do so.