Many will tell you that Formula One never caught on in the United States. I would beg to differ that there has been a disparate contingent of hardcore fans throughout the history of championship. Take the inclusion of the Indianapolis 500, as an example. The Race of Two Worlds at Monza is another.
But, generally, those that tell you that Formula One never caught on in the United States are correct. I have met maybe five serious fans of the sport since I started watching, myself, over a decade ago. There are a multitude of reasons why F1 never caught on. First, we didn’t have the infrastructure for it. Contrapositively, we did have horse tracks that could be modified for automotive and motorcycle racing with ease. Second, we didn’t create it. This is really terrible, but, the perception that Americans don’t like that which they did not create, can be–at times–completely true. Third, hometown heroes were few and far between. Generally, there is a multitude of reasons, why F1 in the
US never caught on.
However, sometimes, it’s almost a surprise that Formula One is not more popular. When it comes down to it, Formula One is really about hubris. If you think about, the sheer gall to decide that you are the one that is fastest than all the others is–for all but one champion each year–misplaced confidence.
Although Formula One never truly caught on in the United States, it was not for lack of effort. Today’s story revolves around Alec Ulmann.
Alec Ulmann did a lot to bring the european style of racing to the attention of an American audience. He may have understood the finicky American audience, but also made his own share of missteps.
If you can, recall a time before the internet in which big media could not be criticized. The newspaper men of old held the power to silence. Such a power was exercised on Alec Ulmann. But, perhaps it was justified.
You see, the major local paper, the LA Times, had sponsored a “Sports Car Grand Prix” that packed the Riverside circuit to capacity, earlier that summer. Ulmann, very publicly, pointed out that the race was not actually a Grand Prix at all. This seriously annoyed the Times owner, who insisted that his paper not even mention the upcoming F1 race. Ulmann, who generally rocked white slacks and searsucker coat, was not feeling so dapper when he rolled up to a relatively spartan crowd of only the most hardcore fans.
To add insult to injury, I also read a rumor that his advertising signs showed up a day late. One can only speculate if the L.A. Times owner, Otis Chandler, was involved. And so, this race in particular was destined to fade silently into the fog of the past.
The race was but a race. Nothing particularly spectacular happened. Enzo did not even send The Scuderia. Remember, the old man was obsessively preparing next year’s “sharknose” Ferrari.
The race itself saw Stirling Moss win, after overcoming a strong Jack Brabham. Ulmann had promised the winner the huge sum of $7,500.00. Unfortunately, the low attendance meant that Ulmnann had to cover the purse out of his own pocket. It took some weeks, but he made good on the-now-personal debt.
According to Eoin Young’s account of the 1960 United States Grand Prix, an epic party followed, which ended with a good chunk of the drivers skinny dipping in a pool behind the hosts home.
Some posts just will not write themselves. This was one of them.