20 June 2012
Locals oppose Valencia race
What would F1 be without a protest? This weekend's European GP has locals up in arms over disruption to daily life....
Spanish national hero Fernando Alonso has been sent an open letter by disgruntled Valencia residents who oppose the annual upheaval of having the F1 circus arrive on their doorstep.
This weekend's Grand Prix of Europe will be the fifth staged on the street course bordering the city's America's Cup port and, while not producing the best racing of the season, the event provides one of the more evocative backdrops as F1 convinces itself that it is enjoying another 'Monaco weekend'. The race hasn't attracted a full house, partly because it comes just a matter of weeks after F1 begins its European swing in Barcelona, and has yet to be taken to heart by the locals, despite the obvious tourism benefits its brings to the city.
Now, protest group 'Circuit Urbà No' has sent an open letter to Alonso to raise its criticisms, claiming that the event represents 'a cost that is a fantasy in the reach of very few' amid the current financial crisis, and imposes unwanted obstructions on a city attempting to go about its business. F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone is also accused of preying on the 'delusions of grandeur' held by regional politicians, convincing them to spend vast amounts of money - rumoured to be around €100m - to prepare for and host the race when there is an F1-standard facility just a matter of miles from the city at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, a familiar testing haunt for the F1 fraternity.
The letter suggests that double world champion Alonso 'remove his helmet' to see for himself 'the humiliation, annoyance and provocation' they claim the residents have to suffer as a result of the race, including road closures, traffic diversions affecting not just private vehicles but also public transport, and a ban on access to erstwhile public spaces.
The latter complaint includes the apparent cancellation - much to frustration of several F1 journalists - of the annual San Juan Festival, a beach party of significant proportions which coincides with the grand prix weekend.
This year's Grand Prix of Europe is expected to feature a reduction in grandstand seating due to a smaller take-up of tickets, and could be the last race on the circuit for a couple of years should the proposed Spanish GP 'race share' with Barcelona go ahead. The Circuit de Catalunya, however, hinted that it may be looking to back out of the agreement after securing a tie-up with the city government, which could potentially leave Valencia at the mercy of the various new venues looking to join the schedule, and the desire to reduce countries to a single round, despite Ecclestone's apparent fondness for the Spanish race.
Alonso has yet to make public a reply to the open letter.
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