Money is all that stands in the way of a return for F1 to America in the near future, it has been asserted - but whilst Indianapolis is on paper the favourite to reprise its role as US Grand Prix host, it is rumoured that other circuits could similarly be keen to get in on the act.

Former Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) CEO Tony George and respected US marketing guru Zak Brown - founder and CEO of Indy-based Just Marketing International, a motorsport firm representing several prominent F1 sponsors - travelled to the recent Chinese Grand Prix to hold lengthy discussions with the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and potential backers, with a view to getting a race that last ran three years ago re-instated on the calendar.

Following eight outings at Indy from 2000 to 2007, the US Grand Prix was dropped from the schedule when George and Ecclestone proved unable to come to financial terms. However, moves to take the sport back across the Pond appear to have accelerated up a gear of late, and whilst George stepped down from the helm of the celebrated 'Brickyard' last summer, the 50-year-old is understood still to have Ecclestone's ear as a result of the pair's long friendship - and therefore is likely to play a significant role in attempting to get the race back on-track.

Many of the top flight's teams and corporate sponsors have repeatedly spoken up for the importance of racing in what is beyond doubt the world's largest automotive market, and Brown's motion is for all concerned parties - competitors, backers, television partners and Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company - to contribute towards raising the necessary funding for the grand prix to once again take place, ostensibly from 2012.

"The questions for any Formula 1 race are 'Where do you have it and how do you raise the money?'" he told local newspaper the Indianapolis Star. "Indy's got the venue part solved - everyone wants it, there's no arm-twisting. It's just getting all the pieces to come together. If you can solve the finances, you could open the gates tomorrow and have a race. It's not a lot of money to come up with."

"Would Tony George love to broker a deal to bring back a US Grand Prix? Sure," he added in an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal. "Tony has a lot of contacts in motorsport, and he knows how to put on a US Grand Prix. I think if there's a role for Tony in trying to bring Formula 1 back to the US, he'd be willing to help. Tony and Bernie have a very good relationship, and Tony has a lot of interest in seeing F1 return to the US. It would only increase the spotlight on the sport of racing, and that's good for the Indy Racing League [too]."

"Certainly, a Formula 1 race would be a high-profile event that could boost our region on a number of levels," agreed Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO Don Welsh. "The international draw is very appealing."

The most obvious alternative to Indy at present would appear to be New York, with Ecclestone having made no secret of his desire to see F1 cars tearing around the streets of the iconic 'Big Apple', whilst San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami have also been mooted as potential venues, with suggestions even of having two US-based grands prix in the future. Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen - for two decades from 1961 to 1980 - Long Beach, Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix have also all staged the race in the past, with varying levels of popularity and success.

Current IMS and Indy Racing League CEO Jeff Belskus - who took over from George last July - confirmed that the Speedway is interested in hosting F1 again, provided it is under acceptable financial conditions, which would likely require Ecclestone to lower his race-hosting fee for the event, something the British billionaire is famously averse to doing.

Given that George was fired by the IMS board in the wake of the 2009 Indianapolis 500, there are question marks as to just how keen he would be to help a venue into which he ploughed some ?30 million of the Hulman-George family fortune and whose owners then summarily dismissed him. After declining an offer to remain as the head of the IRL, earlier this year George subsequently resigned from the Hulman-George board - composed of his three sisters, mother and family attorney - altogether. Belskus, however, insists he has no fear and has maintained 'a good relationship' with his predecessor.

"He (George) still has an ownership stake in the Speedway," added Tim Frost, president of Chicago-based business consultancy Frost Motorsports. "I'm not sure why he would work to bring it anywhere else unless he's simply convinced it wouldn't work there. If the world's top level of motor racing returned to the US and didn't locate at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you'd really have to scratch your head."

The last word, perhaps, should go to new IRL CEO Randy Bernard, who claimed that an F1 return could conversely hurt the already financially-imperilled IndyCar Series - recognising that 'anything in the entertainment world from the NFL to F1 is a competitor' - and mused: "If it is good for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the city and the state, who am I to make a formal opinion to the contrary? But if it failed...the last time it was here, why would it come back?"


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