F1's first attempt at winning a jackpot in Las Vegas


As absurd as the idea may seem in today's era of state-of-the-art racing facilities and street circuits, Las Vegas once saw the fastest cars in the world race around a boring parking lot.

Promoters of the gambling capital of the world – supported by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone - had drummed up the doomed concept as a way of tapping into a "new market".

The result was a 2.2-mile track cramped into a 75-acre lot next to the Ceasars Palace Hotel, void of high-speed sweepers, fast straight-aways, or even the odd landmark, as there wasn't a tree, a bush or a blade of grass in sight.

Fourteen corners and cement walls were Las Vegas' only claim to character.

The race's first edition in 1981 was a title decider between four drivers, with Carlos Reutemann the clear favorite.

But it all fell apart for the moody Argentinean on race day when he was defeated by a recalcitrant gear-box and Williams team-mate Alan Jones, while Brazilian Nelson Piquet was crowned World Champion.

The following year saw another title-decider race, this time between Keke Rosberg and John Watson.

The former won the jackpot while Tyrrell driver Michele Alboreto reaped his very first Grand Prix win.

The race was also Mario Andretti's last drive in Formula 1, as well as Eddie Cheever's first podium, achieved at the wheel of a Ligier-Matra.

Given the small attendance generated on both occasions by Vegas' motor racing publicity stint, the event disappeared - quite deservedly - from the Formula 1 calendar.

At the time, it looked like what had happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas, forever.

However, forty-one years on from Grand Prix racing's colossal failure to sntach a jackpot in Vegas, the sport will return to Sin City.

But this time it will go all-in as its own promoter and on a proper street circuit that will host a 50-lap extravaganza on a Saturday night that no one will want to miss.

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