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07/07/04 - London Grand Prix by 2007

- Mayor plans race in capital following success of Regent Street showcase

Nigel Mansell races the Jordan F1 on London's streetsLondon's West End hummed to the tune of 1000 horsepower F1 engines Tuesday as Grand Prix racing came to the capital.

Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer exits Regent Street and races down Great Marlborough Street500,000 Londoners and tourists squeezed in to impromptu viewing points along Regent Street to witness the eight car spectacle. At times the sheer size of the crowd brought safety fears and the police asked the organisers to finish early to ease crowd pressure. But for those who arrived in good time the chance to see F1 cars speed through red lights with tyres spewing smoke was an event not to be missed.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone claimed that the success of the showcase proved London could stage a fully fledged Grand Prix very soon. He says he has been in talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone with a view to staging a race by 2007. "Something like this takes a minimum of 18 months' planning, so you're most probably talking two years away" said Livingstone.

Right to left: Christiano da Matta, Zsolt Baumgartner, Luca Badoer, Nigel Mansell, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jenson Button and Martin BrundleHis enthusiasm is shared by the Grand Prix drivers old and new who took part in the event. Former world champion Nigel Mansell, driving a Jordan for the day, said "they have the infrastructure here, they have the organisation. It could be absolutely sensational.

Williams lead driver Juan Pablo MontoyaWilliams lead driver Juan Pablo Montoya said the race would be 'awesome'. "It would be a good chance for people to appreciate what Formula One is all about," said Montoya. "I've raced in a lot of street circuits in America and they test the teams and drivers more. To bring Formula One to people would be a really good thing."

Were a race to take place in the capital the likely route would take in parts of Hyde Park, Park Lane, The Mall and Piccadilly. Livingstone predicts that a Grand Prix could attract up to 2 million people. After the crowd pressures experienced at Tuesday's Regent Street showcase though, organisers will need to liaise with police to ensure a full scale event passes more safely.

Peter D. Clee

21/05/04 - Hopes Rise for London Grand Prix

- Formula 1 boss drops hint for future British GP venue

London's chances of getting the Olympics might be slipping away, but there could be a hefty consolation prize coming our way in the shape of Grand Prix racing returning to the capital.

The city last hosted a Grand Prix race on the 28th of June 1938 at the Crystal Palace circuit in south London. That day an ERA driven by Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh, or "B. Bira" as he was affectionately known, took the chequered flag for the second year running.

When asked if London could host a future British Grand Prix, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said: "Everything's possible - maybe people will now think about closing down streets." The background to London's hopes of staging a race again is that Ecclestone has long been unhappy with the state of the track and facilities at Silverstone, the usual site for the British Grand Prix.

On the 6th of July, the possible first step in London becoming a modern Grand Prix venue goes ahead when there will be a demonstration race on Regent Street featuring some of the sport's top stars including on form Brit Jenson Button.

This is not the first time a fresh London based race has been mooted. Past proposals have included a leaf lined route in Hyde Park or Regent's Park and a track set among the skyscrapers of Docklands.

A more recent plan wanted to use The Mall as a start/finish straight, thus affording Her Majesty The Queen a birds eye view of proceedings from Buckingham Palace. However, unlike Prince Birabongse and the royal Rainers of Monaco, who host this weekend's Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the Windsors prefer their racing to be of the four legged variety.

Peter D. Clee