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JANUARY 10, 2000

San Francisco still wants a Grand Prix

THE recent re-election victory of San Francisco's Mayor Willie Brown - with a landslide majority - gives the Californian politician a mandate until the end of 2003 and, with the city booming, the controversial Brown is aiming to build on his success while things are going well.

Brown has been showing interest in hosting a Grand Prix in San Francisco since he was first elected mayor in 1995. The following year contact was made with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and there were discussions about a variety of different sites in the Bay Area. Brown later enlisted the help of Long Beach Grand Prix promoter Chris Pook to develop the idea and in 1998 Ecclestone travelled to San Francisco for a meeting with Brown. Later that same year the mayor took a trip to the MonacoÊGrandÊPrix. Since then, however, a deal has been done between Ecclestone and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This means that San Francisco could not use the title "United States Grand Prix". This is not really a problem as Brown's aim seems to be to host a San Francisco Grand Prix on Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

A man-made island which was built for the World's Fair in 1939, Treasure Island was a major air force base until the end of the Vietnam War. In recent years 12 military bases in the Bay Area (and a number of others across California) have been closed down and sold off as part of the US government's defense budget cuts.

Since the closure of the base, Treasure Island has been in limbo with plans for development which include a major waterfront project which would include a marina, a shoreline park and a number of hotels. They would give magnificent views of the San Francisco skyline. The base already has a conference center in operation and a number of film studios have used the Treasure Island facilities for movie-making. The facility has direct access to the Interstate 80 highway which would draw spectators from San Francisco and from the East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley. The site is also well-situated for San Jose and Silicon Valley.

The major problem is that timing for the race would be difficult if it was to make any impact in F1's heartlands in Europe and Asia. A midday start would mean that the race would be on at 9pm in Europe and in the middle of the night across Asia. However, if interest in F1 in the United States does begin to grow as a result of the event at Indianapolis, the possibility of an event in San Francisco should not be excluded in 2002 or 2003.