He’s president of the Monticello Motor Club, a rich boy’s escape about an hour’s drive from New York. He’s under the impression he once stood a serious chance of making Monticello the US Grand Prix venue. It was a nice way of putting a bit of extra pressure on the State of Texas to accept our conditions for an Austin GP, so I indulged him.
But he’s still living the dream. “Bernie,” he says, “I’ve read you’re working on a second venue for the US. It’s always amazing how great minds turn out to think alike. I was thinking exactly the same!”
Well, what a coincidence. But I’m not sure- “Bernie.” he interrupts me, “I know what you’re going to say. Those Southerners can’t be trusted. It’s like one of them told me th’other day: ‘Face it, if it ain’t got fenders and doors and only turns left neither y’allers nor yankees bother to show up.’
“Listen up, Bernie. I’ve got a great concept for you. Let Austin be for the rednecks, and let’s make Monticello the event for those who want something a bit more exclusive. Waddayathink?”
Well- “Great! I knew you’d be with me on this! Listen, I’ve done the math. In Austin you’re aiming for, say, 200,000 spectators who pay on average about $100 each, dontcha? Which is great for a mass racing event. Brings in about $20m in ticket sales, plus sponsoring, plus proceeds from all those fast food joints, plus plus plus.
“Tell ya what, our members are generally worth north of $20m, so for them, to enjoy a world class racing event in a secluded location without being hemmed in by those sweaty masses would be worth something. Only salmon, caviar and Michelin star catering. Winners get sprayed with Dom Perignon instead of this cheapo Mumm stuff. Only the best of the best.
“Grandstands will be airconditioned, with leather seats and tuxedoed waiters. Don’t get me even started on the hospitality suites. Five star luxury doesn’t begin to describe it. Will cost a bundle, you say? You betcha! Prices to start at a grand for the cheapest grandstand seat. Grand-stand, get it? Haha!
“Anyway, with an average ticket price of four grand we only need 5,000 pax. Plus they’ll spend another fortune on exquisite food ‘n drink. I tell ya, New York has plenty of fat cats, Wall Street types, media execs and whatnot, who wouldn’t event think twice before spending ten grand on an evening out. Tell ya what, we’ll even throw in the helicopter ride so they can get in and out of town in 15 minutes flat. Either that or a stretch limo with two hookers on board for those not in a hurry. Haha!
“Think about it, Bernie! America, the land of unlimited possibilities. Something for everybody. Austin for the rednecks, Monticello for the rich guys. Enjoy F1 while bathing in privacy and luxury.’
I’m flabbergasted. I see myself as an out of the box thinker, someone who comes up with shortcuts and short-life tyres while everyone else is discussing wider circuits and better rubber. That’s why I’m good at making deals, always finding a creative way to give everybody what they think they want while still paying too much. But this chap takes the cake.
That’s not a bad idea, Ari. I’ll think about it. Probably needs a bit of work, especially on the PR front. I can see it would be a bit of a difficult sell, coming from a simple background myself. But it’s worth considering. As I always say, you can get everything you want, as long as you pay too much for it.