GP of Long Beach may be opened to bid, could set up F1 return

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The Long Beach (Calif.) City Council may open the contract for the most prestigious street race in North America up for bidding, which may possibly open the door for Formula One to take the Grand Prix back.

F1 ran through the streets of Long Beach from 1976-1983 before the race’s founder, Chris Pook, opted to go with the less expensive CART in 1984.

It’s been an American open-wheel racing event ever since, with the IndyCar Series taking it over in 2009 following the previous year’s reunification of the sport.

But according to the Long Beach Gazette, the City Council will meet on Tuesday to decide upon opening the contract for bidding.

The contract is currently in possession of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, led by president/CEO Jim Michaelian and owned by IndyCar team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and former CART stalwart Gerry Forsythe.

Last spring, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had been rumored to be considering taking the series back to Southern California. The current contract between INDYCAR and the GPALB runs through 2015.

Per the Gazette, Tuesday’s agenda says the City Council meeting is “in regards to price and terms of the lease to use Shoreline Drive and surrounding streets and property.”

The Gazette also adds that the negotiated parties listed on the agenda are the City of Long Beach, the GPALB, and the FIA Formula One World Championship.

This year’s running of the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13th will mark the 40th anniversary of the race. It will also open NBCSN’s IndyCar coverage for the 2014 season.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”