Fans return for US Grand Prix

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Michael Hopson felt cheated out of his first Formula One race. On Sunday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Michael Hopson felt cheated out of his first Formula One race. On Sunday, the 50-year-old Indianapolis resident gave the international series another chance. He even dressed for the United States Grand Prix in homemade checkered pants, a homemade checkered vest and a checkered bandanna. He also carried an American flag - and a litany of bad memories from last year's grand fiasco. The images of the 2005 race, in which 14 cars pulled off the track before it started and fans responded to the remaining six-driver field by throwing cups and water bottles, remained vivid at the start of Indianapolis' seventh F1 race. Still, the ramifications weren't nearly as bad as race organizers feared. The crowd was estimated to be 130,000. Speedway policy is not to release actual attendance figures. While much of the front straight's lower deck was a mixture of fans and empty seats, the upper deck was near capacity. Temporary stands placed in the course's midsection that overlook the course's snaking turns also were nearly full, and the infield mounds were crowded with fans in a colourful maze of shirts and flags mixed with the scent of sunscreen. Controversial race What most fans wanted to see was the one thing they didn't in 2005 - an actual race. Little wasn't among the large group that left early in 2005, but she was one of the thousands who arrived several hours early on Sunday. And although the controversy seemed long forgotten when the green flag finally dropped, the race did have an eerily similar feel. Just 14 laps into the race, 10 of the 22 cars already had been eliminated - thanks to two early accidents. The other factor that riled the crowd were comments made by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who has said the series doesn't necessarily need a race in America. Those who attended Sunday's race disagreed, almost pleading with Ecclestone to sign a contract extension that would bring the race back to the US in 2007. Indianapolis consistently has drawn one of the largest crowds on the F1 circuit. (AP)

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