Monza nearing its end? Bernie Ecclestone says yes, after 2016

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This should send shivers – or at least potential shockwaves – through the Formula One paddock.

Bernie Ecclestone has told Italy’s Gazzetta Dello Sport he doesn’t see the Italian Grand Prix remaining at Monza past the end of its current contract, which expires in 2016.

“It’s not good. I don’t think we’ll do another contract, as the old one has been disastrous for us from a commercial point of view,” Ecclestone told the paper, via the Associated Press.

“So it’s bye-bye after 2016.”

Poor local ratings in Italy and the aforementioned lack of commercial value according to Ecclestone would be cited as the reasoning. A new contract would have to be struck that makes better financial sense to the FOM supremo, it would appear.

Of course, if passion and fever were the only rating that measured a Grand Prix, Monza would be top of the list. It’s hosted every Italian Grand Prix since 1950 with the exception of 1980, when the race was held at Imola.

The tifosi haven’t had much to cheer about with Ferrari’s struggles this season; meanwhile there hasn’t been an Italian driver on the grid since Jarno Trulli was bounced from Caterham just before the 2012 season.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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