Misleading event titles: A race by any other name...
Titles for sporting events are usually prestigious affairs, often used for promotional purposes and political prowess. But occasionally, they are a misnomer. So Motorsport Week's Phillip Horton thought it was time to take a look at some of the more misleading event names through racing history.
Monte Carlo Rally
The historic and iconic Monte Carlo Rally has traditionally kick-started the World Rally Championship season in mid to late January, the most recent event won by M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier, but the series only remains in Monte Carlo for a brief segment of the weekend. The Place du Casino, in the Monte Carlo district of Monaco, hosts the ceremonial start, but the competitive action takes place in south-eastern France. The service park is located in Gap, the principal town of the mountainous Hautes-Alpes region, situated at least a three-hour drive away from Monte Carlo. Even when stages were held in the Principality, the drivers raced around the La Condamine commune, rather than Monte Carlo.
The Dakar Rally, originally labelled the Paris-Dakar Rally, began in 1978, but the locations evolved over the years, though it remained relatively true to its original title, finishing in the Senegalese capital. But the threat of terrorism in Mauritania caused the 2008 event to be cancelled, and since 2009 the race has been held in South America, despite maintaining the Dakar Rally moniker. The 2017 event passed through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia, on an entirely different continent, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, to Dakar.
The Luxembourg Grand Prix
The Grand Duchy, a bizarre concoction of French, German, and Belgian cultures, has never been visited by Formula 1, but it hosted two events at the Nürburgring in the late 1990s. The 1997 German Grand Prix was already being held at Hockenheim, while Jerez bagged the European label, leading organisers to use Luxembourg’s name for its race. With Luxembourg only around 90km from the Nürburgring, the moniker wasn’t that completely far-fetched, and it was used again in 1998, before switching to the European Grand Prix for 1999, a title it held for several years thereafter.
The San Marino Grand Prix
The area around Imola is rich in motorsport, with Toro Rosso and Ferrari’s headquarters located nearby, and it hosted the 1980 Italian Grand Prix, when Monza was closed for refurbishment. When the ‘Cathedral of Speed’ reopened, the retained race at Imola needed a new name and used the tiny enclave microstate of San Marino, located around 100km away, though the race dropped off the calendar in 2007. A similar situation has occurred in MotoGP with Misano, although it is a mere 15km from the nearest Sammarinese border crossing.
The Swiss Grand Prix
Switzerland, a melting pot of several European cultures, has not hosted circuit motor racing since the 1955 Le Mans disaster, when 83 spectators were killed. However, the Swiss Grand Prix was held in 1975 and 1982 at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in France. The 1975 running was a non-championship event, but seven years later, it was designated a Formula 1 race, due to the high French presence within the sport. With Paul Ricard holding the French Grand Prix, Dijon-Prenois, 170km from the nearest border point, was given the Swiss Grand Prix title. Keke Rosberg claimed victory, his only triumph in his title-winning campaign, while a Ferrari was not present on the grid.
The Pacific Grand Prix
Evidently a misleading title, for the obvious reason that a Grand Prix has not been held in a body of water, though several wet races may dispute that claim. Nevertheless, TI Aida, located near to Okayama, was not even adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, unlike its Japanese Grand Prix counterpart Suzuka. TI Aida, now renamed Okayama, held two Formula 1 races in the mid-1990s under the Pacific Grand Prix tag while in the early 1960s, the name was used for non-championship races at California’s Laguna Seca raceway. Has any other ‘Grand Prix’ been held on two different sides of the world?
The European Grand Prix
Ah, the ubiquitous European Grand Prix… This was initially a title used in addition to existing race names, but from the 1980s it has existed as an event in its own right, taking place at Brands Hatch, Donington, Jerez, Nürburgring, and Valencia. In its latest incarnation, in 2016, the race returned around a new street circuit in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, provoking discussion on whether the nation hosting the event even needed to be classified as being in Europe. Azerbaijan recently aligned itself with more Western cultures, hence the European designation, and is a member of the Council of Europe, while the continent itself has no defined borders. For 2017, though, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix tag will be used.
GP2 Asia… at Imola
Technically not a case of a misleading event name, but a misleading championship name. GP2 Asia was created in 2008 to provide off-season racing for young drivers at Asian circuits. For the 2011 season, Yas Marina was to host one round prior to two events in Bahrain, but anti-government protests in the Gulf state forced the cancellation of both rounds at Sakhir, before Formula 1’s season-opener was also called off. Instead, the category visited Italy’s Imola circuit, where Romain Grosjean clinched the crown, setting up his assault on the main series title, before ultimately returning to motorsport’s top echelon with Lotus.
Anyone who has travelled on low-budget airlines will be aware that such airports serviced by those companies typically include a major city in its name for promotional and associational purposes. London Stansted and Milan Bergamo are two such examples, both being located a fair schlepp from those urban conurbations. In racing terms, the Moscow Raceway fits the same bill perfectly as the relatively new circuit occupies land around 100km away from Russia’s capital city. Since opening in 2012, Moscow Raceway has hosted categories such as DTM, World Series by Renault and the World Touring Car Championship.