End Of The Beginning: The World Trade Center Grand Prix

Built in 1973 and brought down on September 11th, 2001, the twin towers stood magnificently over the horizon of New York City. Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy eight innocent lives were lost that day fifteen and a half years ago, with all but about 225 being in New York City at the Towers. I barely remember that day, though I do remember it. The sight of smoke over the horizon is something that you just don`t forget. The fact that I could see it despite being well over forty miles away just shows you the magnitude of the disaster.

People from all over were killed. I personally believe four or five residents of my town perished. My town is not exactly one where everyone knows each other, as it`s actually quite large, but it`s still a town where crime is infrequent and murders happen maybe once every five to ten years. The daily routine is: You get up, you go to school/work, possibly pulling into a gas station if need be (I live in New Jersey, so we don`t pump our own gas, which I actually love), you attend school/work, you do anything else you need to, you come home, and that`s that. It`s a large town with a bit of a small town feel, so that day is still spoken of frequently here.

Which makes it all the more understandable why no one remembers what happened on February 26, 1993. On that day, a bomb was set off in one of the towers` basements, with the intention of causing it to domino onto the other tower and bring both down. It was a powerful bomb, but didn`t have the intended effect of felling the towers. Even still, it did cause a high amount of destruction and chaos: well over a thousand injuries were reported, nearby residents went without television signals for a week and power overall for five hours, and six lives were lost. The perpetrators were caught and brought to justice, but after 9/11, this attack is rarely noted.

The attack on Feburary 26th also had another bizarre, and indirect, effect: completely ending any chance of the CART Grand Prix Of New York being held.

Blurry AF, sry
Credit to Grandprix.com

Scheduled for either June 27, 1993, or July 11, 1993 (I`ve heard both), the Marlboro CART Grand Prix Of New York was first proposed in 1990 and was announced in 1992. A race in downtown New York had been something organizers had wanted to do since the beginning of motorsport, yet the closest they`ve ever gotten was, or will be, the shoreline streets of Brooklyn later this year for a Formula E race, though there have been a few karting events on short street circuits every once in a while.

The track itself was, suffice to say, not enough either, though due to its location its simplistic layout was justified (it didn`t require the closure of too many streets). It was 1.3 miles, and about eight or so turns, five major ones with the rest being small kinks. The track encircled the Twin Towers, and as such is often remembered as the World Trade Center Street Circuit. The race was apparently going to be between 180 and 200 miles, meaning they`d probably be either 139 laps for 180 miles, 144 laps for 187 miles (300km), or 154 laps for 200 miles. The Lights race would likely have been 58 laps for 75 miles, as that was the usual length of Lights races around that time.

Upon this announcement, the Meadowlands Grand Prix was almost immediately cancelled. The Meadowlands Grand Prix was held at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, not too far from the city. The race at the Meadowlands was already losing steam around that time, but with the announcement of the New York race, the organizers quickly bailed on the East Rutherford event and called it off. They learned some time later that bailing was a big mistake. Many of these organizers thought that it was just the end of the beginning for the New York GP, and that, with the race finally announced, it would be held and be a huge success.

In fact, it was the beginning of the end.

The big problem with the race, besides the obvious closure of the streets and the need for them to be repaved, was in the sponsor – Marlboro. The entire country in general was sort of doing an anti-smoking crusade, as all withheld effects had been released to the public in the late eighties, and the government had started to crackdown on tobacco advertising. New York`s mayor, Michael Dinkins, was staunchly for the crackdown, and had banned tobacco advertisements from sports arenas in the city in 1990. Dinkins promised a series of small events and programs geared towards children to teach the dangers of smoking. So the race, which Marlboro had wanted to basically be a big Marlboro advertisement with billboards everywhere, was also planning on holding several events geared towards youngsters showing them that smoking was unhealthy and unbecoming. Marlboro voiced their displeasure, leading to concerned parents on one end and an angry sponsor on the other.

While the logical move would have likely been to find a middle ground, it`s safe to say that there was no middle ground. These were the early 1990s, after all, the public had recently learned that all the harmful effects of tobacco and asbestos that had been conspiracies for the longest time were truthful, and they were extremely distrustful of big companies in general. Marlboro`s next move was never disclosed, though with Dinkins not budging on the kids` events, they likely decreased the amount of money they were feeding into the event. The event pretty much sat on a table for a few weeks after that, but Marlboro did eventually agree to some anti-smoking billboards in certain sections of the general area. However, the political hypocrisy, as one writer called it, had taken its toll.

In early October, the Marlboro Grand Prix Of New York was called off. The cash flow from Marlboro did not make up for the logistical issues in closing off major streets in New York City and repaving those streets for a CART race. The attack on February 26th, 1993 sealed its fate, with the city pouring millions into its own recovery.

New York has tried several times for a race in or near the city limits. Throughout its history, several F1 street circuits have been proposed, including one in Flushing Meadows in 1985 and Central Park in 2009, plus several downtown circuits throughout the seventies and eighties. Several speedways have been proposed as well. One just outside the city limits came close to being built in the late eighties before some key players in the project were arrested, and a 1.35 mile trioval by the name of Liberty Speedway was proposed in 2003, with the man at the helm of the project being none other than our current president. But, at the end of all roads lay failure for every project to host a race near the American center of commerce, and the World Trade Center street circuit was no exception. The Formula E race in July will be the first time a major event has been held in New York`s streets, and even then it`s a fair distance from downtown.

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Author: Seibaru

My real name is...well, Tyler or Tylor, it's misspelled so often that I have learned to accept both spellings, but I write under the name of Seibaru. I'm a young journalist in training from New Jersey.

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