Le Mans: Patrick Long back with Dempsey-Proton Porsche

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Porsche factory ace Patrick Long will be back with Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster in the Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR, which will compete in the GTE-Am class in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Dempsey Racing is returning with top German Porsche team Proton Competition for next month’s race after a seamless and highly-successful initial effort together last year at Circuit de la Sarthe. The all-American trio of Dempsey, Foster and Long will again carry No. 77 on their new Type 991-based Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR built to GTE-AM regulations.

“When we first raced at Le Mans in 2009 it took us several years to get back there to compete in last year’s race and I immediately realized how much I missed it,” said Dempsey, who led his first race laps at Le Mans in 2013. “The grand spectacle of the race, the incredible passion of the fans and the outstanding cooperation of the organizers make Le Mans the unquestioned highlight of our racing season. We are honored to be able to come back for a second consecutive year, my third time overall with Joe, and we are grateful to Porsche and all of our dedicated partners for making this possible.”

Long’s return to the team continues a recent trend of top factory Porsche talent joining Dempsey Racing at international endurance events as part of a multi-year brand and promotional partnership with Porsche AG. Long was the first “works” Porsche pilot to race with Dempsey last year at Le Mans, and his factory colleague, and LMP1 Porsche hybrid driver, Marc Lieb joined Dempsey, Foster and Andrew Davis at this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“To have the chance to bring this group back together completely intact and without any major team or personnel changes is an opportunity that doesn’t happen often,” said Long, who has GT class victories at Le Mans in his debut in 2004 and again in 2007. “We came very close last year to not only a podium but a victory, and Patrick and Joe drove incredibly well. I am ready to get to it, to just put our heads down and go after the class win.”

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.