Grand Prix race in D.C. hits skids

`Operational problems' mean June event is off

Auto Racing

March 08, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Only last month, National Grand Prix Holdings, LLC. announced the Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, American Le Mans' Series race, was on schedule for June 27-29 at RFK Stadium.

Last night, the event, along with an ALMS event planned for Mexico City, were canceled.

"For this year, the race [in Washington] has become a victim of operational problems on behalf of the event organizer," said Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the American Le Mans Series.

"Having worked closely with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission for the past several months, I can honestly say that there is an unwavering commitment by all involved to retain this event.

"We will do everything in our collective power to see that this race returns to our schedule in the near future."

The Washington GP was judged a big success when it ran for the first time last summer.

The race drew a three-day crowd of more than 70,000 fans, who enjoyed the festive atmosphere and were captivated by the world-class sports cars that competed on the temporary road course constructed in the parking lots at RFK Stadium.

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Lencheski, co-founder and chairman of National Grand Prix Holdings, said his group would be a partner with the Panoz Motor Sports Group in staging the event in Washington this year.

PMSG is the promoter of some of the world's most successful professional sports car racing events, including next weekend's 12-Hours of Sebring.

Lencheski's group, relatively new to the business, signed a long-term agreement a year ago to promote motor sports events in Washington.

When announcing the Panoz involvement, Lencheski noted the Washington race had been "hailed as the signature event and platform for the American Le Mans Series."

It was true, but the event did draw criticism from some local residents due to noise levels. It was that problem the Panoz Group was expected to help solve.

Neither Lencheski nor Bobby Goldwater, head of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, could be reached for comment last night. Atherton said legal considerations prevented him from providing more details.

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