Minardi dismayed by Monza’s uncertain F1 future

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Former Formula 1 team owner Gian Carlo Minardi has expressed his dismay at the uncertain future faced by one of the sport’s most iconic circuits: Monza.

Located on the outskirts of Milan, Monza has hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since the formation of the F1 world championship in 1950, and welcomes Ferrari’s loyal ‘Tifosi’ fan club to the race in their thousands each year.

With the sport taking a more global approach to its scheduling, the race at Monza is at risk of being cancelled upon the expiration of its contract in 2016.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said last July that the race had been “disastrous for us from a commercial point of view”, paving the way for events such as the Qatar Grand Prix to take its place on the calendar.

A number of figures within F1 have spoken out against such a move, with Minardi – owner of the popular Minardi team that raced between 1985 and 2005 – becoming the latest to express his dismay following the demise of the German Grand Prix.

“We are talking about circuits that are part of a nation at the height of motor racing, not only in sport,” Minardi said, referring to Hockenheim and the Nurburgring in Germany.

“However, they will not have a grand prix. This should make us think.

“Formula 1 represents a real economic benefit for state assets. Precisely for this reason, Formula 1 must be treated like the World Swimming Championships, the Olympics or World Football Championships – events in which not only the Sports Federation but also the Government can intervene.

“Do not forget that Italy has the number one cultural heritage in the world, which is envied by all. Therefore, we should use Formula 1 as a magnet to attract tourists, including holiday packages, before and after grand prixs, with worldwide tour operators. Besides, we are talking about a city which is easily accessible by plane and high-speed trains.”

Minardi continued to wish Ivan Capelli, the man tasked with saving the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the best of luck in his challenge.

“I want to wish the President of Milan Automobile Club, Ivan Capelli, good luck for the start of negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone and our ACI President Sticchi Damiani, who cares about the existence of Italian Grand Prix and Monza’s security,” Minardi said.

“He will make every effort to find the right funds and agreements. Monza, along with Silverstone and Monte Carlo, is Formula 1.”

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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