G’day, mate: NHRA Top Fuel racer Richie Crampton heads home to Australia for V8 Supercars race

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With the NHRA Mello Yellow national event tour off for nearly three weeks until resuming at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 13-16, drivers do different things with their time off.

Some go on vacation. Others, naturally, work on their Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars or Pro Stock cars or motorcycles.

Not Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton. He’s going home, back to his native Australia.

It will be Crampton’s first time back in his home town of Adelaide in quite some time, according to a press release from Geico/Lucas Oil.

“I’m heading back to my hometown for the first time in 18 months,” Crampton said.

In addition to visiting family and friends, you can’t get the racer out of Crampton: he’ll also attend one of Australia’s biggest races of the year, the V8 Supercar event in Adelaide.

“The V8 Supercar race is a huge event, and I’ll be hanging out with several of the teams that are currently using Lucas Oil (which sponsors his Top Fuel dragster in NHRA competition),” Crampton said.

The race will be held on a street circuit through Adelaide’s downtown area.

“I’m pretty excited to get back and watch that great race on the streets of my hometown,” Crampton said. “I’m also excited to see family and friends who I haven’t seen in quite a long time.”

The trip will not be all R&R for Crampton, who holds duel citizenships in both Australia and the United States. There is a business aspect of it, as well, as Crampton will tell Australian reporters about his exploits on the NHRA circuit in the U.S.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to meet with a lot of the Australian motorsports media who are interested in what’s been going in with me here lately,” Crampton said. “I know there are several television and radio personalities who are going to be in attendance who have scheduled some time to get with me, and I’m appreciative of that.

“I’m looking forward to explaining what I’ve been up to in the U.S., and the homecoming story about how I got to drive the GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster.”

Crampton left Los Angeles on Monday night and was scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Wednesday night (due to the international date line, he essentially skips forward a day).

The V8 Supercars race weekend begins Thursday and runs through Sunday before Crampton returns to the United States next Tuesday.

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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.