Classic F1 races could take place at Austin track

We all know that to be successful (and yes, the “being successful” part is still a ways off, with “getting a shovel in the ground,” “getting dirt moved,” “jumping through political hoops” all between then and now), the proposed track outside Austin, Texas will have to play host to more than just an annual Formula 1 race.

MotoGP, ALMS, Grand Prix, IndyCar plus other current series all are obvious targets. Now one, admittedly minor, series is saying it would like to race at the track: Historic Grand Prix.

The quickly becoming-experts-on-motorsports folks at the Austin American-Statesman have the details:

“We would absolutely be interested in coming,” said James King, co-director of Historic Grand Prix. “We’d have 30 cars at least.”

The decade-old organization, which also held a race at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, likes to call itself the world’s fastest museum. Its short races, about 30 minutes each, feature classic F1 cars built between 1966 and 1983. The fleet includes a Lotus 79 that Mario Andretti used to win the 1978 World Driving Championship, a Tyrrell 006 once driven by Jackie Stewart and a Lotus 49 B once piloted by Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill.

“The cars have a great pedigree. I think they have tremendous appeal for the fans,” said Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway in California. “It’s like going to an old-timers game and seeing Willie Mays or Joe DiMaggio — only they’re throwing the ball just as hard as they used to. The cars are fast, they’re loud and they’re cool-looking.”

They’re also expensive.

“The value of the cars goes from a quarter million up to the Ferraris, which are worth $2 million apiece,” said King, who races in a 1976 March 761. “The value of the car is a by-product of what it achieved, who designed it and who drove it.”

That’s the good news for the fans. For Austin-area businesses there’s this:

The steep price tag for the vintage race cars is not the only cost involved.

“For a weekend, it’s about $15,000 or $20,000, which doesn’t include dinners and expensive wines. A lot of the drivers like to eat in nice restaurants,” King said. “We’ll get four- or five-star hotels. We did 100 rooms in Canada.”

“It’s not a poor person’s sport,” added Page. “They’re hobbyists.”

It isn’t clear if an historic event would run with an F1 race or separate. Page says running them together doesn’t necessarily sell more tickets, which makes me think track bosses might want to squeeze a separate weekend out of the old cars.

Either way, it’s good that the track is getting enough traction that race organizers have it in mind.

Are there other series that should be planning to make a stop at the track? LeMons, anyone?

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