MRTI: Pigot wins and Hargrove retains points lead in GT3 Canada at GP3R

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The Mazda Road to Indy divisions, as well as the Verizon IndyCar Series, were off this past weekend – but several drivers were making the rounds around North America this weekend.

We noted IndyCar drivers Jack Hawksworth and James Hinchcliffe in action at Road America; Gabby Chaves, the Indy Lights points leader, also made a day trip to Road America to support the DeltaWing team, which he’s driven for in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup this year.

In Trois-Rivieres, Pro Mazda title rivals Scott Hargrove and Spencer Pigot continued their battle at the legendary street course in Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin action. It was part of the weekend that also included this accident in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

Pigot finished fourth in Saturday’s race one (Chris Green won) and won Sunday’s race two; the Sunday win was his second of the year (Toronto).

“I knew I had the pace. I just had to take advantage when I could but not take too many risks and end up in the wall, which is easy to do here,” Pigot said. “Just worked my way past Chris and Scott. It was good battling with them, as always. Really hard racing, but it was all clean today. Happy to get the win.”

Meanwhile Hargrove finished second in both races and retains the series points lead with a final two-race weekend to go at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, August 30-31. Hargrove leads Green by 16 points (152-136); 20 points are on offer for each win, and a maximum 40 possible.

Pigot and Hargrove’s Pro Mazda title battle will be decided in the next two weeks, after one race in Milwaukee this weekend and two in Sonoma the following weekend. There, Pigot currently leads Hargrove by 14 points (259-245). Wins are worth more than 30 points.

The other IMSA Development Series were in action at Road America this weekend. Sloan Urry, Michael Lewis and Angel Benitez Jr. won the three IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA races with Mikhail Goikhberg and Andrew Novich winning in IMSA Cooper Tire Prototype Lites.

We’ll have more on the Pigot/Hargrove title battle later this week on MotorSportsTalk.

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.