Long Beach to discuss potential return of Formula One

Long Beach officials are today set to debate the merits of returning a Formula One motor racing event to the Californian city.

In a closed session, the Long Beach City Council will discuss its lease with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, which organises an annual three-day April event for the IndyCar US motor racing series. The Press-Telegram newspaper said elected officials will also consider a request by F1 to open up the bidding process for the contract when it expires in June 2015.

Formula One staged races in Long Beach from 1976 until 1983 and its interest comes as doubts continue to surround the sport’s proposed race in New Jersey. Having been initially scheduled to make its debut as the United States’ second race last season, organisers of the Grand Prix of America are now targeting a place on the 2015 calendar. The New York street race, which had been scheduled for June 1 on F1’s provisional 2014 calendar, has been postponed while organisers attempt to secure “restructured financial arrangements for a 2015 race”.

Long Beach officials have been cautious on the merits of potentially ditching their long-running IndyCar event in favour of switching to F1. Councilman Gary DeLong, chairman of the Budget Oversight Committee, said any F1 proposal could not deliver a tax bill to the city. “We want the event to generate revenue, not expenses for the city,” said DeLong. “The Grand Prix Association has done a good job for the city. We need to be very careful before moving to another race organiser.”

Currently, the city does not pay any costs associated with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, now in its 40th year. Long Beach’s contract with the Grand Prix Association requires organisers to reimburse expenses incurred by the city for the race, such as police and fire services. The city said these expenses totalled $548,414 (€400,000) last year.

Chris Pook, who helped form the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1975 and was hired by Formula One Group chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to help find a venue for in Southern California, said a race would be entirely funded by the private sector.

“There will be nothing asked of the city, other than the use of its streets,” he said. “All we’re trying to do here is show the city what a Formula One race can deliver economically. If they decided they don’t want Formula One, we will move on and find a home for it in Southern California. If they want it, then we’ll sit down and have a discussion.”