Honda website
Honda website

APRIL 2, 2001

A new home for the Brazilian Grand Prix?

THE Interlagos circuit came in for a great deal of criticism over the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend because of poor organization, dilapidated facilities and crime. The fact that the circuit dates from the 1930s is not really relevant as most of the facility was revamped in 1990, but there is a fundamental problem at Interlagos in that it is built on land which is prone to subsidence. In fact this is why in 1938 the area became a racing circuit rather than housing.

There are many in Formula 1 who feel strongly that Formula 1 should be in South America but that Sao Paulo is the wrong place to be. Sao Paulo is the industrial powerhouse of Latin America but it is not a place to which one travels for a glamourous holiday. Rio de Janeiro held that appeal for many years until levels of crime gave that city a bad reputation as well.

The current thinking is that perhaps it would be wiser to find a new location for the Grand Prix. This would need to be close enough to the big cities to attract crowds without being engulfed. It would need good communications, decent hotels, local government support (and therefore a reason to exist, such as tourism).

It is probably not a coincidence that racing entrepreneur Creighton Brown - who was a partner in McLaren for many years, having helped Ron Dennis fund the takeover of the team in 1980 - has been working quietly in recent years with the state government of Santa Catarina in an effort to build a world class racing facility outside the town of Joinville.

Santa Catarina is one of the wealthiest states in Brazil and the most cosmopolitan. It has a population of 5.3 million people and has a strong European flavor thanks to a large percentage of the population having been German immigrants. Santa Catarina has a remarkable selection of beaches and although there has been development, there is potential for a great deal more, although there is also pressure for this to be handled carefully so as not to ruin the coastline with too much construction.

The city of Joinville is known as an industrial one although most of this is located outside the center. The city hosts a famous flower festival every year and has a pleasant and relatively unspoiled downtown. Law and order is much more effective than in Sao Paulo. The communications are good. It is 600 miles to the south-west of Sao Paulo and so only really accessible by air. There are also air links between the Argentine capital Buenos Aires and the airports of Florianopolis and Curitiba. Joinville is located on Highway 101 75 miles to the south of Curitiba (which has a population of 1.5m) and 100 miles north of the state capital Florianapolis (which has 350,000 people).

Brown is rumored to be buying an 800-acre site adjacent to the main highway and the initial plan is to construct a factory on the site to build TVR sportscars for the Brazilian market under licence to the British firm. The factory should be finished within a year and Brown then intends to construct a test track. This will be built to Formula 1 standards and although Brown says he has no intention at the moment of trying to land the Brazilian Grand Prix it is very likely that once the work is completed he will begin looking for the funding necessary to attract the F1 circus.