Will Virginia International Raceway Ever Host a F1 Grand Prix?
Sixty-nine circuits have hosted one or more F1 Grand Prix races. However, the Virginia International Raceway is yet to make the list.
Those who have witnessed and used the VIR consider it the most challenging track to tackle in North America. With NASCAR drivers citing the third bend on the course as the worst.
Which prompts the question, why F1 motors, built to master challenging routes, haven’t raced at the VIR?
The track is abounding with exciting turns molded to the land’s curves in a picturesque and idyllic location for fans to watch their favorite chosen F1 team. So, will a Grand Prix ever take place on Virginia soil?
Below, the history of VIR, its current audience, and the structure of the racetracks are divulged to determine whether the VIR would be suitable for F1 races.
Virginia International Raceways History
The Virginia International Raceway, commonly abbreviated as VIR, is one of the most extensive tracks in the U.S. at 3.27 miles and is located in Alton, Virginia. Here various motor events of an amateur and professional nature take place.
During the first event, an SCCA race, the winner Shelby defined the course as ‘one lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen.’
However, despite being a firm contender on the SCCA calendar, the racetracks’ location made attracting crowds difficult.
In turn, Colonel Rembold took over the lease and successfully attracted large crowds to the venue. But in 1974, the track’s success dropped again and shut down.
For years the track aged and crumbled away until two investors from the real estate sector in New York resurrected the grounds.
By 2000, the track reopened and began hosting prestigious motorsports events in the U.S., such as:
- 2001 – 2010 AMA Superbike Championship
- 2002 – 2011 Grand Am
- 2012 – 2013 ALMS
Current top-tier motorsports events at the VIR include:
- TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
- NASCAR K&N Pro Series
- Yamaha Superbike challenge
The ongoing enhancements of the track coupled with the experience of hosting high-profile motorsports events and the capacity to facilitate a large crowd, makes the VIR an excellent site to host an F1 Grand Prix.
However, the racetrack requirements for NASCAR and F1 cars differ. While the VIR may be perfect for a NASCAR event, it may not meet the criteria to host F1 vehicles safely. For example, F1 circuit builders need to continually liaise with Formula 1 and FIA through the development to approve each step of the track’s production.
A racetrack worthy of F1 motors entails a complex process and selection of quality materials from several locations. The materials need to be tested by laboratories to decipher which mines provide the highest standard of elements required to build an FIA-approved track.
For instance, the Silverstone track was revamped in recent years with specially sourced crushed rock called Graywacke from Shropshire. Graywacke was chosen because of its resistance to high-performance vehicle braking and cornering.
Existing F1 tracks still undergo scrutiny and alterations to improve the course, such as adjusting the run-off areas or adding safety barriers.
If VIR were to host an F1 event, many costly changes would be necessary to ensure the track can endure F1 races. But, upgrading the VIR track is unlikely unless F1s popularity in America increases.
Formula 1 in the U.S.
NASCAR is the choice motorsport in the U.S. Featuring cars that people could potentially drive on the highway.
In opposition, Formula one racing cars cost upwards of $470 million, featuring high-powered technology funded by prestigious car manufacturers. F1 is predominantly appreciated in Europe.
Of course, the media plays a part in determining what sports the U.S. audience has access to. Little to no coverage of F1 races in the U.S. means American audiences are less exposed to F1 Grand Prix events. However, that could soon change.
Virginia and numerous other states have legalized sports betting, enabling citizens to place wagers on a plethora of sports worldwide, including F1 races. Exposure to F1 through online betting sites could stimulate motorsports’ popularity. With Virginia legalising the use of sportsbooks, the VIR would be a perfect venue for the F1 with punters being able to place bets when at the physical venue if they wished.
Will VIR Ever Host an F1 Grand Prix?
Most American motorsports fans prefer NASCAR over F1, just as they prefer football over the European version of football.
Unless the U.S. decides to provide better coverage of F1 Grand Prix’s on T.V., the sport is unlikely to prevail above NASCAR. Therefore, there’s little demand for VIR to justify hosting an F1 event.
Although America’s attitude towards sports is changing. With sports betting now permitted in several states. Betting enables the public to legally and safely explore, place wagers, and connect with many sports, including F1. Plus, some sites give customers access to watch the motorsport they’re betting on too for free, which could increase the U.S.’s familiarity with F1 also.
But if VIR were to show interest in hosting an F1 Grand Prix and vice versa, the racetrack would need to undergo stringent and costly changes to meet FIA standards. Making the prospect of changing the course unlikely in the near future.
Several exciting and incredible sports haven’t caught on globally—for example, Australian Rules football, the Gaelic sport Hurling in Ireland, and SUMO wrestling in Japan.
Equally, Formula 1 has a following in a large number of countries except for the U.S. However, with the luxury of watching and betting on every sport imaginable online on numerous betting sites. Having a sport hosted in every territory worldwide isn’t necessary.