Uncertainty Over The ‘Ring 24 Hours
The FIA apparently intends to move the Grand Prix of Europe to the
weekend previously chosen for the Nürburgring 24 Hours (May
28/29). It appears this decision is "all but official"
The sheer number of races
that make up the 24 Hours weekend necessitates that practice sessions
for the support races begin on Thursday, with qualifying for the
main event, and indeed some support races (one last year) happening
on Friday. Therefore, weeks that offer a public holiday on Thursday
or Friday are the preferred dates. There are only two of these during
the 2005 racing season: the weekends of May 7/8, and May 28/29.
The latter seemed like the perfect choice (no conflict with Le Mans,
and not too early in the year - see below). Formula 1 had originally
set an April date for its Grand Prix of Europe, one of two German
races on the World Championship calendar, but has apparently now
thought better of it, and hijacked the 24 Hours weekend date for
its own show.
The FIA's reason given
for moving the Grand Prix to a later date is the weather in the
Eifel, which in April (and also in early May) is notoriously unpredictable.
And herein lies the reason for the 24 Hours organisers' uncertainty
whether to go ahead with their race or not: not only is the weather
unpredictable at all times, it is also miserably cold during the
night hours, with temperatures dropping almost to freezing point.
If these conditions are uncomfortable for the spectators, especially
those camping out in the woods (which may subsequently decide to
stay away in 2005), they are hazardous for the competitors, especially
on the Nordschleife.
this development may be, it comes as no surprise that the Nürburgring
GmbH would have given in to the FIA's demands. The company which
runs this vast motorsports complex is jointly owned by the state
of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the county of Ahrweiler - and for
the businesses of the region, as well as the federal and regional
tax men, the Formula 1 Grand Prix is still the major cash cow of
the year. The 24 Hours, for instance, does not create all that much
revenue because a large portion of the approximately 200,000 visitors
camp out, and bring their (mainly liquid) provisions with them,
instead of renting rooms and dining out. Formula 1 fans spend more
money on location, and Michael Schumacher's stranglehold on Formula
1 guarantees continued fan interest in the two German events - in
part, it is the reason why there still are two of them on the calendar.
These commercial considerations weigh particularly heavily as the
Nürburgring GmbH has not done all that well in recent years.
The alternative Grand
Prix date of June 3 has officially still not been ruled out; the
final decision, on which now seems to depend the fate of the 2005
Nürburgring 24 Hours, will be made at the next FIA meeting
on December 10.