COTA had record F1 ticket sales before coronavirus hit

Formula 1 finally confirmed today that there will be no races in the Americas this year, with the US, Canadian, Brazilian and Mexican events all officially cancelled.

Texas has been hit particularly hard by the virus in recent weeks, and in addition there were commercial issues, with the cost of freight proving prohibitively high should Austin have ended up as a standalone race.

COTA noted in a statement today that initial ticket sales for 2020 had been up by 250%, but Epstein said it was looking even better than that before the virus struck.

“That number is conservative,” he told Motorsport.com. “Hopefully we haven’t lost some momentum, it’s just delayed to 2021. Coming off last year’s sell-out the desire for people to secure their seat for this year was terrific. Our deposits for tickets, as well as enquiries, were both up significantly. 

“It showed I think that we had finally got it right from the standpoint of being a destination event. The plans for this year that we had mapped up including increased seating and upgrades to a number of areas. 

“We had some real superstar acts lined up for the evenings that I think would have helped us to continue the growth.”

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Asked why sales were up, Epstein credited the Netflix series Drive to Survive with playing a role.

“It was a combination of a few things,” he said. “One is the sport itself got a lot of exposure through the Netflix series, and we started to have a real tradition being established, with people making it a big annual event. 

“And I also have to think that the local community continues to embrace the event more and more as part of the city’s annual calendar. When all those things come together, we see some success.”

Epstein believes the sales can be maintained once the world gets back to normal: “This cancellation has nothing to do with sport, it has everything to do with health and safety and logistics. I don’t think we necessarily lose momentum. In fact, you might argue that there will be pent-up demand.”

Although the F1 race was cancelled relatively early Epstein stressed that it still had a significant impact on the business.

“The event related loss was greater on MotoGP, because that was cancelled closer to the event, when set-up had already started,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a loss with the event not occurring, because we have fixed overheads, taxes and insurance and nothing to offset them.”

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