The IZOD IndyCar Series might be heading to the Ferrari-owned Mugello race track in Italy, according to reports in La Repubblica
The newspaper suggested that series officials have had preliminary discussions with the management of the 3.2-mile, 15-turn facility with a view to staging an IndyCar event, with suggestions that it might even happen as early as 2013.
"We've had discussions with a variety of potential promoters and that includes initial, exploratory discussions with Mugello," series CEO Randy Bernard told the newspaper on Tuesday.
The publication of the 2013 IndyCar season calendar at the start of last week
raised eyebrows by including a month-long gap without any races after the first day of September, before the final two events of the season are held in October. That left many speculating that this gap had been intentionally left open for a 20th race to be added to the line-up later down the line.
At the time, prime candidates for the seemingly-vacant slot were said to be either an extra oval race at Kentucky Speedway or a new street race in Providence, Rhode Island, but in a teleconference last week Bernard had quickly dismissed the chances of any of them happening as early as next year.
"We had races and promoters wanting to have additional races [in 2013]," he said. "They just were not able to pull it off in time of our deadlines, and I think it's real important that everyone understands that we have to stick to a formal plan and I think that we did that this year.
"In regards to 2014, we would love to see Providence, Rhode Island," he continued. "If they are going to do it, it needs to happen sooner rather than later because we are not going to increase our schedule by a significant amount of events, which means there's a very limited amount of races that we are going to bring on anew.
"There are a couple of markets in Canada that are interested; Providence is interested; you've heard New Orleans is interested. There are quite a few markets out there," he said. "There's not room for everybody, but I guess the big key here is which ones get onto our schedule early enough to be on 2014."
Currently, the series has two weekend events staged outside the US: the Sao Paulo event Brazil at the start of May before the Indianapolis 500, and the doubleheader on the streets of Toronto in mid-July. The Edmonton Indy is no longer on the schedule
after the local promoters filed for bankruptcy.
Both venues are in the same broad time zone as the continental US, making TV scheduling straightforward for both events. But the series has struggled to move further afield, with the proposed 2012 race in China falling apart at the last minute and the traditional Japanese round at Motegi coming to an end after the 2011 event.
The appeal of Motegi was because it was the home of then-exclusive series engine supplier Honda, and it's likely that Mugello has entered consideration because it is owned by Ferrari. The series is looking around for more engine suppliers to join the competition in the future, and Fiat subsidiary Ferrari would be high on the list of prime candidates.
Reports say that Bernard has also discussed the possibility of Ford entering the series as a manufacturer, but that they are unlikely to sign up in the near future. Bernard is also said to have had discussions with Dodge, after the company decided to pull out of NASCAR competition at the end of 2012.
Currently Honda and Chevrolet dominate the manufacturer battle, with Lotus' entry into the series ending in ignominy as their engines under-performed and teams scrambled to break their contracts in their rush to sign up with one of the other suppliers.