Indy Lights: Dixon, Hinch to test new car; Belardi confirms 2 for 2015

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Two bits of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires news came through on Friday that we neglected to hit at that point, so here they are:

DIXON, HINCH GET NEW CAR TEST

While youngsters Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly are the primary testers of the new Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights chassis, and both of them have already sampled the new car to this point, two Verizon IndyCar Series veterans will also have the chance to drive it next month.

Both Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe – each is an Indy Lights veteran and Dixon is a past Indy Lights champion – will test the car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Sept. 5-6.

“I’m excited to see the new car and the direction the series is taking,” said Dixon. “It’s a very important stepping-stone on the road to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I look forward to driving the new car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and hope to help with the ongoing development.”

Added Hinchcliffe, “It is always fun being part of something new, and helping to develop this race car is a cool opportunity so I was excited when I got the call from T.C. to be a part of it. I am a big believer in the Lights series; racing in Indy Lights made me the driver I am and prepared me to step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I think this new car is a big step in revitalizing the series. Being in on the ground level and helping to push the series in this direction is something I am looking forward to.”

BELARDI OFFICIALLY SIGNS UP FOR 2015

To clarify a post from earlier this week, the 8Star Motorsports to Indy Lights announcement was a notice of the team’s intentions to enter the championship. However, Belardi Auto Racing has confirmed it has placed deposits on two new chassis for 2015, and thus Brian Belardi’s squad will be present for the new season.

“I’m extremely pleased with what Dan Andersen has accomplished in providing stability for the Mazda Road to Indy, but he’s also been aggressive in moving Indy Lights into the future, and we’re behind him 100%,” Belardi said in a team release. “I also have great faith in Dallara and the recent results of the new car testing have been phenomenal. I attended the test at Mid-Ohio and was happy to see the car’s anticipated performance levels be confirmed on-track. I’m thrilled for next year and I’m excited knowing that we’ll have two cars on the grid, and possibly more.”

Belardi has run points leader Gabby Chaves the full season, while alternating Alex Baron and Axcil Jefferies in the second car throughout 2014.

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.