Formula One motor racing power broker Bernie Ecclestone has struck a deal with Hollywood film star Sylvester Stallone that will lead to the first US-based Grand Prix for almost a decade.
A race has been scheduled for Las Vegas in the 1999 race season. Stallone will film shots of practice sessions and the race itself, which will then be incorporated into film he is making based on F1.
Ecclestone, chairman of Formula One Administration, will get exposure not only on American TV but also through US cinema. Despite F1’s annual global TV audience of 450 million, it has made little progress in the US, partly because few American drivers have been successful at it.
Stallone’s film will give the sport exposure in the American market. The move will also boost Ecclestone’s ambitions to float F1 on the stockmarket, scheduled for next year, and is likely to make the sport even more attractive to sponsors.
Ecclestone is at the centre of the furore over the Government’s plans to exempt F1 from a ban on tobacco sponsorship after it was revealed he had made a 1m donation to Labour’s election fund.
The most important motor sport in the US is Nascar saloon car racing, which has a much bigger profile than the older Indycar circuit.
The most recent US Grand Prix took place in Phoenix in 1991.
One insider at the sport’s governing body, the FIA, says: “Bernie does want to get into the American market. He sees this as another way of trying to get the sport noticed there.”