Forget Indianapolis, a new name has entered the frame to act as the future host of the possibly soon-to-be-revived US Grand Prix from 2012 onwards – and chances are, it's one few F1 fans will even have heard of.
According to a number of reputable sources, the president of Monticello Motor Club (MMC) in upstate New York is in talks with F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone regarding holding the race around the exclusive country club-style circuit at the foot of the Catskill Mountains – and for all that it has come out of the blue, it does make several degrees of sense.
With the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which welcomed F1 from 2000 until 2007, including the farcical non-event of 2005 – having seemingly fallen out of favour, and Ecclestone making no secret of his desire to take the circus to New York, Monticello fits in by dint of being the nearest road course facility to the Big Apple at just an hour-and-a-half's drive from Manhattan and ten minutes from an international airport.
In a letter written to members by MMC President Ari Strauss and leaked to AutoWeek
, it has been revealed that he and MMC chairman Bill McMichael met with Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone earlier this year 'and discussed the terms for an exclusive ten-year United States Grand Prix to be hosted at MMC', whilst assuring that 'if F1 comes to Monticello, our intent is to preserve MMC as, first and foremost, a private country club'.
'Shortly thereafter, Hermann Tilke, the chief engineer and circuit designer for F1, spent time at MMC and confirmed that our track and surrounding properties – with some expansion and minor track modifications – is an excellent location for a grand prix,' the letter went on. 'Since receiving a letter of understanding from FOM confirming their hope to bring the US Grand Prix to Monticello, Bill and I have continued to secure the backing and support of local, state and federal politicians and organisations.
'Securing F1 is like winning the Olympics; competition is fierce, and this is not a done deal. At this juncture, we are simply honoured that F1 is considering our venue as the future, exclusive home for the US Grand Prix. It would transform the region into one of the motorsport capitals of the world, bring thousands of jobs to Sullivan County, inject over $100 million each year into the local economy and place your private club in the company of famous racing circuits like Monza and Spa.'
As it stands, the circuit at MMC is 4.1 miles in length, with 22 corners, more than 1.5 miles of straights and no fewer than twelve different configurations. It was designed by accomplished ex-grand prix and sportscar ace Brian Redman and track architect and engineer Bruce Hawkins. It was opened two years ago to cater on a non-commercial basis to driving enthusiasts, and its membership includes the likes of multiple NASCAR king Jeff Gordon and actor and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
“We are in a position to move forward for many reasons, notably our proximity to the New York City metropolitan area and the flexibility we have in terms of making changes to the track itself and its access for fans,” Strauss added, speaking to grandprix.com
. “Our members are a very forward-thinking group of individuals who are a great asset themselves to this project, on different many levels.”