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Friday, October 10, 2008

Teams unhappy with North America snub

Disappointment was on the minds of team principals Nick Fry (Honda), John Howett (Toyota), and Mario Theissen (BMW Sauber) at Friday’s pre-race press conference.

Disappointment that the series will skip North America entirely next season following word the FIA nixed Canada from the 2009 schedule.

The three principals, all representing automakers with serious stakes in the U.S. and Canadian markets, made their thoughts known when questioned from the floor.

“Obviously we are not happy about not being in North America,” Theissen said. “The US is the most important and biggest car market for BMW and I think for the industry as a whole. It has always been difficult to set foot into the US but Canada has always been a very strong Formula One supporter and the race in Montreal.

“I have seen the race in Montreal as an operational base to get a second race up and running in the US, and so we would, rather than drop the Canada race, use it or expand the operations in North America to have a Canadian plus at least one US race,” he continued “Montreal is one of the most popular venues on the F1 calendar.”
Howett agreed, explaining the newly formed FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) hoped to address gaining F1 a foothold in the especially tricky U.S. market in the next two years.

“Canada? We are sad because it’s a great race, we like to go there,” he said. “I think one of the targets of FOTA is to actually ask the commercial rights holder to really establish a strong foothold in North America, particularly the US, with a race which showcases Formula One well, and is, if you like, economically beneficial to Formula One as a whole.”
Fry echoed Howett’s remarks, noting the significant investment Honda has in North America.

“We are hugely disappointed – it’s difficult to emphasize by how much,” Fry said. “Honda is very successful in Canada, we make cars there, the local company there is hugely enthusiastic about Formula One. We have large numbers of guests from America and from Canada. We sponsor the event, we would like to see it back on the calendar as soon as possible and I support John’s comments that I think it will be a major topic of conversation among the teams at the next meeting of the teams.”
The Honda principal also shed some light on what made the Canada race vulnerable.

“As soon as we were down to one race on the continent, things inevitably were going to get difficult because the costs of transportation and appearing just once across the other side of the Atlantic were huge and I think really we need to look at how we’re not just going to get back Canada but how we get back to America, potentially more than once, as it is such an important market,” he said.
It should prove interesting to see how much pull FOTA has. Teams have often spoken about the need for multiple events in North America, but the attitude of F1’s power brokers tends to be less than enthusiastic. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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