Asked at the second of the weekend's official press conferences what racing in America meant to Formula One, the assembled team representatives will have done no harm by telling the media assembled at Indianapolis that any event on the North American continent was vital for the sport.

With leading figures from BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and Renault present at the press call, it quickly became apparent that the annual trip to Indianapolis - and that to Montr?al, which currently faces the axe for 2004 and beyond - ranked highly in terms of the sport's marketing appeal.

"The American market is the most important market for BMW," insisted Mario Theissen, "It passed the German market last year and, of course, we would very much like to see the importance of Formula One in the States growing - because we cannot do more [for our product] than come to the US doing Formula One racing. So far, of course, our colleagues here in the US are not really happy about the impact of Formula One, so everybody would love to see Formula One gaining importance in North America.

Honda's Otmar Szafnauer agreed with Theissen's sentiments, claiming that the American market was also 'the biggest market for Honda - I think we sell about 50 per cent of our cars in North America', before going on to suggest that the powers-that-be pursue a second event.

"I think it's a big global economy as well, North America, and it's good that Formula One comes here," he said, "Two races here wouldn't go amiss, perhaps one here, perhaps one on the West Coast. It's a big country."

Both Mercedes and Toyota were less effusive, pointing out that other markets were more important to them in terms of current sales levels. The former's Norbert Haug was in favour of a second US race, but stressed that its timing had to be good for the global audience.

"The American market is a very important one, but is the second largest one after Germany," the burly German explained, "We have record sales here again this year, though, so it is very, very important for us.

"We easily could do with a second race here. I think it would be fantastic for Europe particularly. We need to have more prime-time races, no doubt about that. I think, in future, it would be fantastic if the season could start with a couple of prime-time races. If you broadcast in the morning four o'clock, you probably get three million people, but, if you broadcast at eight o'clock in the evening, you get 13 million people."

Toyota team manager Ange Pasquali went one stage further and, instead of supporting the call for a second race in the USA, followed a different tack by calling for the reinstatement of the under-fire Canadian round.

"The States is, of course, a major investment for us and we expect a big return on investment," he said, "America is a major market, obviously, and, not far away from here - an hour south from here in Kentucky - we have the biggest Toyota plant in the world. So of course this race is very important for us.

"However, I have to say that Canada is too, so, for Toyota, it is a bit of a pity that it is not on the calendar because it is also a huge market."

Renault's Pat Symonds proved to be the odd man out as the North American market is not one that has a major influence on the French brand's plans - even if they did exist on the other side of the Atlantic under a different guise.

"As I'm sure you all know, the alliance between Renault and Nissan is a very strong one and, in North America, our products are branded as Nissan, but it's not something that we in the Formula One team actually make much of," he explained, "However, I think that what's important is that Formula One is a global sport. Yes, we're racing in America this weekend, but we are broadcasting that race all over the world, and we go to many countries. We rely on the fact that people all over the world are watching us, and we're trying to get our name in front of people worldwide.

"Personally, I'm very pleased to be racing in America. It's a great country and I think a world championship is not a world championship unless it involves North America."

 

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