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The Frankfurt Scale


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#1 Don Capps

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Posted 20 January 2003 - 20:24

How many of you recall the Frankfurt Scale? During some of my digging into the background of the crisis de jour in F1, I found myself thinking about this starting money scheme which didn't get replaced until, what? -- about 1972 or so?

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 January 2003 - 21:26

Don, the USGP at Watkins Glen was always out on its own with monetary payments. Some time (I'm sure Mike can tell us when) in the mid to late sixties, Watkins Glen started paying quite handsome sums to have the cars there.

Once that happened, the potential for other circuits to come under pressure was in place.

But I don't recall the 'Frankfurt Scale'... the lads with Autosport and Motoring News will be able to look this up.

#3 Don Capps

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Posted 21 January 2003 - 02:34

Ray, I am very familiar with the way Watkins Glen handled things, thanks to both Mike and his father. You are correct about the changes that the USGP-style way of doing things generated among the FOCA teams, changes which eventually led to the secretive and convoluted system now in use. The Frankfurt Scale was replaced by the Geneva Scale at some point in either the early 1970's or late 1960's. Apparently these only applied to the European organizers, the "off-shore" events being treated as special cases.

#4 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 21 January 2003 - 06:43

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Don, the USGP at Watkins Glen was always out on its own with monetary payments. Some time (I'm sure Mike can tell us when) in the mid to late sixties, Watkins Glen started paying quite handsome sums to have the cars there.

Once that happened, the potential for other circuits to come under pressure was in place.


It is a rare day when Ray Bell gets it wrong - but on this post he has it wrong on at least two significant points. Additionally I must take issue with the overall conclusion that Ray arrives at. This is the second time Ray has posted to this effect and it is only my great respect for Ray as an historian and shrewd observor of the sport that compels me to respond.

Ray - Watkins Glen wasn't "always out on its own with monetary payments," but it wasn't "in the mid to late sixties" that we "started paying quite handsome sums to have the cars there."

We always had to pay "handsome sums" to have the cars there because we were across the Atlantic. But we were not initially able to capitalize on this from a promotional point of view because of the strictures inherent to the starting money customs in European Grand Prix racing (and lesser forms too for that matter).

For all this to make sense one needs to understand the atmosphere and predispositions (well grounded as they may have been) which prevailed among the Grand Prix teams with respect to their feelings about racing in American. One also needs to appreciate the unique promotional needs of the organizer of a Grand Prix in America.

The 1959 and 1960 USGP's at Sebring and Riverside respectively were financial disasters for the organizer and when the teams didn't get paid after Riverside the disaster extended to the teams. It was a huge black eye for American racing on the international stage and although everyone eventually got their money (Briggs Cunningham and Charles Moran quietly and gentlemanly made all the debts right to save face for the sport in America) the damage had been done.

Watkins Glen was awarded the 1961 USGP because the teams knew Cameron Argetsinger (or knew his reputation) from the three consecutive (1958-60) International Formula Libre races he had successfully organized and promoted. They liked his style and his organizational talents - but they really liked being paid in cash - and that is what he did. But it took real courage on the part of ACCUS to move forward after the embarassing failures of the two previous years - and still greater courage and confidence for Watkins Glen to take on the expense of a full blown GP. (Incidentally, because the original organizer put forward incredible hurdles in an attempt to keep anyone else from putting on the race - it wasn't until just six weeks before the race that Watkins Glen was awarded the Grand Prix.)

So that was the prevailing atmosphere. Now for the financial details - which speak to the crux of Ray's viewpoint.

Starting money at the time was 1000 pounds sterling per car - which converted to $2800. A field of 20 cars therefore meant an outlay of round about $56,000. Additionally we paid a purse of $11,000. But the real expense that separated the cost from a European GP was that we also paid the transportation of the cars by air from Heathrow to New York and ground transportation to Watkins Glen and then return. This amounted to more than $50,000. As an aside you should know that in those days transportation was no "turn-key" operation as it is today. Cameron Argetsinger made all the logistical arrangements for movement and customs, etc. as well as negotiating individually with each team for particulars of personnel and local transportation (we provided a total of 25 cars for the teams use for two weeks after they arrived in NY). All of this was settled on a handshake!

This system essentially remained in place from 1961 through the 1965 race. So you see Ray - we were hardly breaking with tradition as your comments would suggest.

It was beginning in 1966 that we announced the first $100,000 purse. This was achieved by taking the roughly $56,000 starting money and existing $11,000 purse and adding a new $30,000 plus to the pot - mind you we still had to pay the transportation on top of that. The teams were persuaded to go along with this because the purse payout was scaled so that the 20th - or last placed car - received $2800 - hence perserving the cherished starting money. Two years later we doubled the purse to $200,000 - achieved by taking the 100,000 as just described and adding in the transportation (which by then was more than $60,000) and finding an additional new $40,000 more.

Why did Cameron Argetsinger do this? The answer speaks to the very different needs that the American promoter had as compared to his European counterpart. In Europe GP racing stood on its own merits and had a long tradition of representing the pinnacle of motor racing. This was never the case in America. The typical sportswriter (and ultimately his readers) equated "big time" sports as carrying a big time purse. To them Indy was the only big time race in the world and their eyes would gloss over when you attempted to explain starting money, world championship, etc., etc. At the time $100,000 was something of a magic number as golf tournaments, etc. were beginning to promote.

We needed to compete for the attention and news space against all sports - and even in racing (in addition to Indy) the CanAm was coming on strong as well as other more familiar American racing series.

This was the environment that created the need for a uniquely American purse structure. It did not sow the seeds as Ray has suggested in this thread - and said more directly on an RC post - for some kind of ultimate downhill spiral for Grand Prix racing.

Grand Prix (or Formula one if you prefer) racing in America was established on a successful basis at Watkins Glen and endured there for a full 20 years. It was Cameron Argetsinger's organizational genius, personal credibility, and finely tuned skills as a promoter that made it happen. Chris Pook is the only person who has since approximated that success in America for GP racing and we will see how it ultimately plays out at Indianapolis. (I hope and believe it will survive and prosper there.)

#5 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 January 2003 - 08:00

Thank you Mike, I knew you would set things straight...

From my perspective, I was referring to the publicity the $100,000 and $200,000 purses got in the press as I was able to read it. I think you will find that Motor Sport referred to this hike in prizemoney frequently, while the behind-the-scenes payments of starting money and transport money were left to those handling the cheques and receiving the goods.

In other words, the prizemoney was the public figure.

You do point out, however, that there was an additional $30,000 thrown in for the 1966 race and another $40,000 added in 1968. It was this latter year, I'm sure, that attracted the media attention of which I speak.

And while for those down the grid it still amounted to little more (or the same) as they had received in the past, for the winners and grinners it swelled the coffers well as they headed for Mexico.

I think it was also later lamented that this open and publicised prize pool was to be pulled into line with that at other races, and also put into hiding as things became more and more secretive with the passage of years.

Naturally I recognise the part that comparison with Indianapolis had in your father's decisions, but I wouldn't have seen the connection with golf etc. These things would have been more apparent to those with access to the daily press in America.

I should add also that I can in no way criticise this course he took. It was ultimately for the good of the sport in the USA, and ultimately should have been for the good of the drivers and the teams overall. He was congratulated at the time and should continue to be so.

I'm also aware, Mike, that a somewhat similar situation regarding travel and starting money existed in the earlier Tasman Cup era. Of course, that was shared between seven or eight promoters.