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Schmidt Peterson, Enerson legal dispute settled

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The legal dispute between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Team Enerson Racing, LLC that popped up in the summer of 2016 has been settled between the two parties.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports released the following statement on Wednesday:

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and RC Enerson, as well as RC Enerson’s former Indy Lights sponsor, Team Enerson Racing, LLC, have settled their claims against each other on mutually acceptable terms.

Sam Schmidt stated, “We are pleased to have this situation behind us. For the record, the terms of our contract with the Enersons provided for early exit and that is what happened in this matter. As the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, we will have no further comment on this matter. RC is a talented driver, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

The “early exit” note in the contract provides a description of what happened last season in the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires campaign.

Enerson, projected to be a championship contender for his sophomore season in the series after an impressive debut season at only age 18, was hamstrung by a litany of mechanical failures and other issues outside his control through the opening eight races last year with SPM’s Indy Lights team.

With the early exit option activated, Enerson pursued an opportunity in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and signed a three-race deal with Dale Coyne Racing to compete at the Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and Sonoma road course races in the team’s No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.

What followed was one of the most impressive three-race debut stretches in recent IndyCar memory. Enerson set the third fastest race lap at Mid-Ohio and was top Honda, and ended only behind Chevrolet-powered Team Penske drivers Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. At Watkins Glen, he made it into Q2 in 11th and ended ninth in the race, while having run as high as sixth early on in the race. Sonoma was a tougher event for both he and teammate Conor Daly.

Enerson was known to be on several IndyCar teams’ shopping lists for 2017, but was unable to secure a seat for this most recent season of competition. He made his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson, although that race was compromised by electrical gremlins that struck shortly after the green flag.

Enerson still remained active and on site at a number of IndyCar races throughout the season, including doing a mix of pace car and two-seater driving, and has been a key part of the Lucas Oil School of Racing’s growth and development as one of its primary driving instructors. At only 20, he’s still plenty young enough to have a long career in the sport, due to the aforementioned talent and feedback he has at his disposal.

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.