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Haas Speeds Forward With Formula One Plans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 10 2014

Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, still has Formula One dreams. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas knows there are those who doubt his ability to field a Formula One team due to the failure of USF1 about five years ago, but that’s not keeping him from taking the next step in his pursuit of one.

Haas was scheduled to file the next part of his F1 application Feb. 10. He already has paid a $5,000 application fee.

“I think they said their final selection would be in March, something like that,” Haas said during Charlotte Motor Speedway’s annual media tour. “I think we have a shot. I don’t think it’s a great shot. I think it could go either way.”

Haas said F1 could decide to grant one team a license or it could elect not to add another organization.

“It seems like every time we deal with it the process takes longer than you think,” said Haas, the founder, president and sole-stock holder of Haas Automation, a leader in CNC machine tool manufacturing. “If the process drags on to June or July we probably wouldn’t be able to do it (in 2015). If we had known in December, we probably could do it, but we’re getting into this gray area. It also depends on who we can partner with as far as engines, chassis and all that other stuff. Those are just questions that haven’t been answered.”

Haas said he had met with Bernie Ecclestone, the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, and admitted Ecclestone was skeptical about his ability to field a team.

“He’s seen teams make these applications and then fail and I don’t think he wants to do that again,” Haas noted.

Haas admitted it was USF1’s failure that had many on the international circuit looking at him with a wary eye. That Charlotte-based team was fronted by former F1 television commentator Peter Windsor. It was granted entry for the 2010 season, but it never got past the chassis-construction phase and was disbanded.

“If I was Mr. Ecclestone, I’d probably be saying, ‘We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. What makes these guys different?’” Haas said. “But it’s kind of like individuals. You never know who can get things done and who can’t. I can sit there and see where Formula One would probably be very gun shy about putting another American team on there since the last one did not get to the grid. That was not good at all.”

Haas said the thoroughness of his application was being scrutinized.

“They want to know who the engine supplier would be, how are you going to build the chassis,” Haas continued. “It’s not (just) a form you fill out. It would be something that you have to prove to them you have the capability of doing this and the manpower to do it. It’s a formidable challenge.”

If Haas’ F1 aspirations become reality, the team would be based in the United Stated.

“The thing about Formula One is you have to look at where the cars leave from to go to the races,” Haas said. “I think eight or nine races are on the main continent of Europe and the rest are overseas. It doesn’t look as daunting as you would think. The cars are pretty light; you put them in containers. Charlotte has two or three flights a week that go to Munich, which is a pickup point. So it’s all doable.”

Haas said he would need to begin his operation with a veteran F1 driver so he could help “sort out” the car and “then someone else that could bring some money in.”

“We want to have an American team competing in a European realm and we think that has a lot of sizzle to it,” he said. “It’s a personal thing, too. I don’t really want to do what the Europeans are doing, but it’s their racing venue. It’s a very difficult sport to be in.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 10 2014
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