Long Beach would require $9m in upgrades to host F1

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Long Beach Grand Prix promoter Chris Pook has estimated that it will cost $9.2m to upgrade the circuit if it is to host Formula 1 in the next few years, as he continues his crusade to bring the sport back to California.

Following the success of the revived United States Grand Prix at the newly-built Circuit of the Americas, plans have been made for a second race to be held at Port Imperial in New Jersey. However, with the project now twice postponed, other options in North America are being considered, and Pook is keen on bringing Formula 1 back to Long Beach.

“We just want the opportunity to state our case, to be considered,” he explained to the Orange County Register. “We just want them to take a look at what we bring to the table. That’s all we’re asking.”

Formula 1 last graced Long Beach back in 1983, and the race has since made up part of the IndyCar schedule. In order to host F1 again, though, some upgrades will be required such as extending the circuit in places. However, Pook says that original estimates are way off the mark, with the price being closer to $9m to complete the work.

“People have been saying it would cost $100 million,” he said. “That number has just stuck in people’s minds. It’s not even close to that.

“The net tax gain for Austin in 2013 was $4.9 million, and the net gain for Texas was $17.2 million. The value of F1 is that it provides new money. F1 racing draws a worldwide audience. You would be tapping into new consumers.

“F1 wants to be in Southern California by 2016,” Pook added. “I’m conflicted, because I want to see it here. It’s where we started and it’s a big piece of history.”

Quite whether Formula 1’s possible return to Long Beach comes to fruition remains to be seen, but Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that he had approached the city when the tender for the race was opened up.

If an agreement is reached, then it could be a more viable option than the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey, but should the latter also kick into gear and finally go ahead, we may have three races in the United States on the F1 calendar by 2016.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/