Austrian Organisers Still Hopeful of Keeping GP

The organisers of the Austrian Grand Prix have said that the race could be given a late reprieve and win back its place on the calendar next year.

Austrian Organisers Still Hopeful of Keeping GP

The organisers of the Austrian Grand Prix have said that the race could be given a late reprieve and win back its place on the calendar next year.

The event, run at the A1-Ring in the picturesque Styrian Alps, has been provisionally knocked off the calendar for next year because of problems with tobacco advertising. But Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has had "several" meetings this weekend and, when asked if the race should be counted out for next year, organiser Hans Geist said: "Not yet.

"There is always a chance to bring Formula One back here. Bernie has a lot of meetings during the weekend and we discussed a lot of things. There are 17 races possible on the calendar and at the moment there are only 16 so why not?"

The Austrian Grand Prix is set to be replaced by China and Bahrain, the latter also organised by Geist's company Grand Prix Management GmbH, and those two races will fill the calendar.

But it has been suggested this weekend that Ecclestone is concerned the SARS epidemic that has hit China this year could continue and threaten next year's race and the Austrian Grand Prix could be drafted in as a reserve.

The disease caused the International Football Federation, FIFA, to cancel the Women's Football World Cup and the International Cycling body, UCI, has cancelled the track championships which were both due to take place in China later this year.

But Geist admitted: "I don't think SARS is the real reason because China should be autumn 2004 and that is a long time and things are going along there well so China is a very important market and I think he will do it.

"A lot of things will have to happen to stay on the calendar. There is a new owner and he wants to build a lot of things at the circuit so if there is a big construction going on in 2004 it will not be possible to organise Formula One.

"But if maybe these plans could be postponed or changed then maybe there is a chance to get Austria on the calendar again because so many people want the race here but the government have to decide if they want or if they don't want."

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