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Velociudad: From the Eyes of Former Formula 1 Driver Stefan Johansson

Most car enthusiasts and Formula 1 fans all know the household name Stefan Johansson. The Swedish born professional driver recently ranked among McLaren's 50 Greatest Drivers. He has driven for the most popular teams in car racing history including Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes and Audi. After leaving Formula 1, he continued to race in other categories such as CART, and Grand Prix Masters.

Argentina is one of Johansson´s favorite places in the world, "The people, the culture, the parrillas, fine wine…It's a fantastic country". Interestingly enough, Johansson´s debut as a Formula 1 driver was in Buenos Aires back in 1980 with Shadow Racing Team. "It's a small world. Maybe that's what started my romance with Argentina.".

Now with Velociudad Speedcity building here, we may be seeing a lot more of Johansson in the Southern Cone. Having seen and driven on tracks around the world, Johansson consulted London-based architects Populous on the Velociudad circuit design. He recently visited Velociudad's site to see the preliminary circuit and drove the Phase 1 dirt track. When asked about the circuit he responded: "It's great, I think it's going to be a really, really cool track. It's got good and nice curves. It's got variety, some rhythms- high, medium speeds and some slow speeds overtaking."

Johansson was blown away as he witnessed the immense, passionate crowds viewing a local argentine TC series in Buenos Aires last year, "Motorsport is huge here, and I think the interest is next to footbal. It's fun when the crowd is engaged with racing." He strongly believes Formula 1 belongs in Argentina, along with Brazil.

Bernie Ecclestone can certainly vouch for Johansson about returning to Latin America. Ecclestone told the press last month ""Europe is a good place for tourism and not much else". When asked about global Grand Prix expansions Ecclestone mentioned, "Russia for sure, we have a contract there ... maybe South Africa, Mexico." The prospect of a world class circuit in Buenos Aires will undoubtedly return Argentina into the discussions.

Another strong suit for Velociudad in the eyes of Johansson is the diverse activities which can be held on a daily basis. With the various modern and state-of-the-art facilities, Velociudad will be capable of hosting up to three simultaneous circuit events. Not to mention additional activities in the 4x4 Off-Road Park, Club House, and Driving Safety Center, Driver/Mechanics Academy, Hotel, and Brand Houses for auto manufacturers.

The next mission is bringing Argentine talent up to Formula 1 standards. The last Argentine who raced in Formula 1 was Gaston Mazzacane back in 2001. For argentine drivers to consistently make it to F1 Johansson said, "That's a tricky one. I think it's the same for a lot of regions. Money, unfortunately and especially the latter, success in racing now is very, very tough. It costs an enormous amount of money for a driver to make it all the way to Formula 1. If you look back historically, the most efficient systems were the Elf program of France, the Marlboro sponsorship program and most recently Red Bull. I think it's very difficult when you carry one, two or maybe three drivers individually and then try to support them all the way. It has to be almost natural, sort of a college system where eventually you get like a Sebastian Vettel, who comes through the system, who's exceptional. Unfortunately so many drivers fall in the cracks because of the money issue. It's a problem everywhere, not just here." Besides delivering Argentina with a new FIA grade 1 track, Velociudad is developing a driving academy which will create a bridge to Europe for local talents and bring a new level of excellence to argentine motorsports.

Corie Chu
International Publicist
Velociudad Speedcity Circuit

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