IMSA confirms 2015 TUDOR, Continental Tire series schedules

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Lost in the shuffle a bit on Sunday in the wake of the Tony Stewart news and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, then finish at Watkins Glen, was the release of the NASCAR-owned IMSA championships releasing their 2015 schedules.

Here’s the nuts and bolts: for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Indianapolis and Kansas have been dropped, with Lime Rock added in the last weekend in July for the PC and GTD classes. PC also replaces GTD at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

This is all part of an aim to reduce the overall racing schedule from 11 races down to 10, as the extra racing time has added substantially to team budgets.

“When we set out to create the inaugural TUDOR Championship schedule we wanted to have a calendar that featured the most iconic endurance races, historic road courses and major market street circuits in North America all on the same schedule,” said IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton. “We have confirmed all of those elements once again on the 2015 schedule, while also adding another noteworthy venue in Lime Rock Park. This is a schedule that we are confident will be embraced by the industry and sports car fans worldwide.”

The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge schedule mirrors the TUDOR one nearly to a T. Every CTSC weekend will occur alongside the TUDOR Championship, with no standalone weekends as there were this year at Lime Rock and Kansas. CTSC will not race at the Long Beach and Detroit events, but otherwise will be on each TUDOR Championship weekend.

2015 TUDOR UNITED SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Date Event Classes
*Jan. 24-25 Daytona International Speedway ALL
*March 21 Sebring International Raceway ALL
April 18 Long Beach Street Circuit P/GTLM
May 3 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca P/GTLM and PC/GTD
May 30 Detroit Belle Isle P/GTD
*June 28 Watkins Glen International ALL
July 12 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park P/PC/GTLM
July 25 Lime Rock Park PC/GTD
Aug. 9 Road America ALL
Aug. 23 Virginia International Raceway PC/GTLM/GTD
Sept. 19 Circuit of The Americas ALL
*Oct. 3 Road Atlanta ALL

*Denotes Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

2015 CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTSCAR CHALLENGE SCHEDULE

Date Event Classes
Jan. 23 Daytona International Speedway ALL
March 20 Sebring International Raceway ALL
May 2 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ALL
June 27 Watkins Glen International ALL
July 11 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park ALL
July 24-25 Lime Rock Park GS/ST SPLIT
Aug. 8 Road America ALL
Aug. 22 Virginia International Raceway ALL
Sept. 18 Circuit of The Americas ALL
Oct. 2 Road Atlanta ALL

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.