United SportsCar reveals 2014 calendar

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The merged Tudor United SportsCar Championship has, at long last, revealed its 2014 schedule. It features 12 weekends, although all four classes (P, PC, GTLM, GTD) will have an 11-race schedule thanks to a couple scheduling quirks and potential calendar clashes.

Events retained from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series calendar include: Daytona (24 Hours), Detroit Belle Isle, Watkins Glen (6 Hours) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those carrying over from the American Le Mans Series calendar include: Sebring (12 Hours), Long Beach, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Mosport, and Virginia International Raceway. Four events have featured on both 2013 calendars: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Road America, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and Road Atlanta.

That blended schedule has left off only five tracks that featured on the ALMS or GRAND-AM calendars this year: Mid-Ohio, Lime Rock, Kansas, Barber, and Baltimore. None of those five being left off is of huge surprise, although Lime Rock has already hosted ALMS this year and will play host to GRAND-AM’s season finale next weekend.

Race distances, other than Daytona’s 24 hours, Sebring’s 12 and Watkins Glen’s 6, all traditional race lengths, were not revealed. It is anticipated that the standard 2-hour, 45-minute race lengths will be retained if not for all, most of the remaining races.

Nine of the 12 weekends will see all four classes, with three exceptions. Long Beach will be P and GTLM only due to a likely lack of available paddock space, Detroit will be P, PC and GTD to allow for GTLM entrants (Corvette, SRT Viper, perhaps others) to participate in the Le Mans test day in France, and Virginia will be separate PC and GTLM/GTD races. While not confirmed, it is likely VIR’s addition to the schedule came as a result of the cancellation of Baltimore’s street race announced earlier this week.

“This is, without a doubt, the best sports car schedule in the history of North America,” said IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton in the official series release. “When we announced the merger plans last year, we immediately envisioned a dream schedule, one that our industry and, most importantly, our fans would embrace. Although it wasn’t easy, we feel like we have arrived at just that. There were so many options to consider and we could have added more events, but we had to ensure that we didn’t over-tax our industry. So, we stuck to our plan of going with the ‘best of the best’ and capped the lineup at 12 events.”

Schedules for all support series in the IMSA family are forthcoming at a later date and will likely include a combination of events on USCC weekends and other facilities with other championships as headliners.  Additionally, the rounds that will be part of the North American Endurance Championship have not yet been confirmed.

Your schedule breakdown is below:

2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Schedule

Date                   Event
Jan 25-26            Daytona International Speedway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Mar 15                Sebring International Raceway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Apr 12                 Long Beach Street Circuit (P, GTLM)
May 4                  Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
May 31                Detroit Belle Isle (P, PC, GTD)
Jun 29                  Watkins Glen International (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Jul 13                    Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Jul 25                    Indianapolis Motor Speedway (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Aug 10                 Road America (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Aug 24                 Virginia International Raceway (PC one race, GTLM, GTD separate)
Sep 20                 Circuit of The Americas (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)
Oct 4                    Road Atlanta (P, PC, GTLM, GTD)

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.