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U.S. tycoon Gene Haas wants to race to billions with Formula One team

updated 9:22 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gene Haas wants to bolster business brand by founding a Formula One team
  • The American's Haas F1 Team is due to join the world championship in 2016
  • Haas, who owns a NASCAR team, wants to win a grand prix within the first five years
  • "F1 is the biggest challenge of my career but I don't have any doubts we can do it," he says

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(CNN) -- American entrepreneur Gene Haas is a great believer in the adage "you've got to speculate to accumulate."

Which goes some way to explaining why he's prepared to enter the dollar-draining world of Formula One -- and expects to make money.

Tthe 61-year-old NASCAR team owner has been motoring on with his plans to build his brand new Haas F1 Team from scratch to join the grid in 2016.

As the founder of Haas Automation, he sees F1's global world championship as the perfect shop window for his billion dollar machine tool manufacturing business.

"If I can achieve an extra billion in sales, we will pay for whatever F1 costs," the Californian told CNN's The Circuit.

"Some teams spend half a billion, some spend 50 million dollars a year," as Haas did the maths. "We should be somewhere in the middle of that."

Haas has taken note of Red Bull Racing's success in F1, a team that has won four straight world titles in the 10 years since Austrian tycoon Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder of the energy drink company, bought and revamped the Jaguar race team.

"Just the association of being with F1 basically takes a brand from nobody to the stratosphere," said Haas, whose team will be based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, though it will have an overseas office close to London, England.

However, a concern for Haas must be that F1's most recent start-ups have enduring mixed fortunes.

Of the three teams who joined F1 when the grid was expanded to 12 teams in 2010, only Caterham and Marussia remain in business.

The Spanish HRT team quit the sport because of lack of funding at the end of 2012, while Caterham and Marussia are still battling to survive from the back of the grid, with the future of both teams far from certain.

"I think their biggest problem was trying to get to the grid so fast," argued Haas. "For us we want to make sure that before the cars come for practice in January 2016, we will have that chassis hopefully completely assembled by November.

"We will spend a fair amount of time making sure we have the right spares, the right pit equipment, the right logistics, the right containers -- all the right things that takes us to get to the race."

Having started his own NASCAR team in 2003, Haas joined forces with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart to form the successful Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2009.

If NASCAR taught Haas anything it is that the right connections are essential to motorsport success.

Hence his F1 team has already signed a technical partnership with Ferrari, the most successful team in the history of the sport.

The agreement means the Italian marque will supply the Haas team with hybrid engines and gearboxes as well as general technical support.

"It's the people that you partner with," responds Haas, when asked what he learned from setting up his NASCAR team from the bottom up.

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"Ferrari wanted to go beyond being just an engine supplier and they were going to help us with the basic structures of the car.

"It's an honor to have Ferrari help us in this way and we take all the help they can give us because you can't really get better than Ferrari."

Haas was at the Italian Grand Prix, where rumors also swirled about the concept of F1's major marques -- the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull -- running three-car teams, an idea that would potentially see minnows like the Haas F1 Team knocked off the grid.

"I'm ready for a Formula One with eight teams with three cars each," F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview:

But the implacable Haas says he is not worried that his eponymous F1 team won't have a place on the grid if Ecclestone's idea comes to fruition.

"We have a license, we will be there," Haas insisted. "Unless something changes that would be a shock to me.

"I think Bernie's objective is to have teams who are well-structured, well-funded and that race at a level that the world championship requires."

So Haas continues to focus on overseeing the first American-based F1 team to compete at the elite level of global motorsport since 1986.

A bid by the USF1 team to join the grid in 2010 ended ignominiously because of a lack of funding.

American dream

F1 still lags behind the domestic NASCAR and IndyCar series when it comes to audience share.

However the reintroduction of the U.S. Grand Prix in 2012 on a new circuit in Austin in 2012 has helped grow the sport's popularity.

"I tell ya, an American team with an American driver would be simply hitting it out of the ball park as far as the media would be concerned," enthused Haas.

"We would love to do that but it's a bit too early to try and predict that. It would be great to have fellow Americans behind us and supporting us, that would be a tremendous push for us."

If winning over homegrown motorsport fans is a long-term aim -- not to forget the plans to double the turnover of the Haas business -- then the short-term goal for the Californian car enthusiast is much more prosaic.

"The first five years is about just surviving," Haas says. "I don't have any grander expectations that we are going to go there and win championships.

"If we can even win one race in five years that would be a tremendous success."

Given Marussia have only won two points -- thanks to stricken driver Jules Bianchi's ninth-place finish in Monaco this season -- and Caterham are yet to score a point, a grand prix victory for the Haas F1 Team would be success indeed.

Hammer time

Don't bet against it happening though with Haas at the helm.

"I've been tinkering with cars most of my life, since I was 10 years old," adds Haas. "I always had this flavor, this attitude 'yeah I think I can do that a little bit better.'

"I just never give up and keep trying, trying and trying. I just keep hammering away.

"If you keep doing something long enough, you learn how to do it and I don't think F1 is any different.

"It's just a challenge. Certainly the biggest challenge of my career but I don't have any doubts we can do it. You just don't give up."

Read: NASCAR co-owner applies to race in Formula One

Read: F1 reborn in the USA?

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