Champ Car giving Legault another try in Quebec
The following is a rough translation of this article from Radio Canada that talks about the press conference held Wednesday regarding the Champ Car race at Mont-Tremblant. From the sounds of it Champ Car will have a hard time of it at this remote circuit, especially when they expect only 25,000 fans on race day the first year. The track will have only one main straight grandstand and the rest will be General Admission. Some question if Normand Legault is really promoting this race with an eye toward someday getting the Stroll family to sponsor his F1 race in Montreal. Given the great disservice he did to Champ Car in Montreal, and the big nut he has to crack to pay Bernie Ecclestone's fee every year, many doubt just how sincere he is. Only time will tell and if the first event comes off with much success, than Legault's reputation in the Champ Car world will take a bump up.
Normand Legault came out of hiding on Wednesday to present the July 1st Champ Car race to be held on Circuit Mont-Tremblant, which he is organizing in partnership with the track’s owner, Lawrence Stroll.
Mr. Legault spoke for the first time since he chose to replace the Champ Car World Series by a NASCAR Busch race on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
He was seated along side Mr. Paul Gentilozzi, co-owner of the Champ Car series.
“I chose to associate myself to this project since it will allow the Champ Car series, I am sure, to find its legs at Tremblant, on a track that isn’t well known, it will allow the Tremblant business community to reap important economic benefits throughout the duration of the Canada Day weekend,” explained Mr. Legault.
Mr. Legault highlighted that he was happy to work with “very good friends”.
“With the Stroll family, whose passion for automobiles maintained the spirit of the Circuit Mont-Tremblant alive, along with Mr. Guy Laliberté, a fervent racing enthusiast, a creator gifted with a sense of entrepreneurship and immense success. With such partners, it was a given that a team like ours deserved to be involved,” continued Legault.
Normand Legault did not mention Paul Gentilozzi nor the Champ Car World Series, confirming the tension that led to the split between Legault and the series over the future of the Montreal event on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
“It is rare that we can associate ourselves with one of the world’s best known brand, Cirque du Soleil. It was a chance we could not overlook,” explained Mr. Gentilozzi.
Asked to comment on the relationship between Champ Car and Normand Legault, Mr. Gentilozzi could not deny the facts.
“Motorsport is a business, and the last 3 years’ adventure gave us the impression of unfinished business. We knew Normand was the expert in this field and in this market and that Lawrence Stroll brought us back together. There is nothing personal in our differences of opinions. It’s like in hockey. Sometimes you fight with your friend. We defended ourselves but it was easy to patch things up. Without his expertise, we would not have come back,” said Mr. Gentilozzi.
It is hard to imagine that the Champ Car series left a market as important as Montreal so willingly.
“Normand made us realize that Champ Car could not be in F1’s shadow. It was not a good business plan. Something we had not realized before. We have great champions in our series and when you ask them to run on the same circuit as their F1 counterparts, in slower machinery, you are not offering the best product to your fans. We have to showcase our best drivers on their own stage, not that of someone else,” commented Mr. Gentilozzi.
A calculated risk?
But is the Circuit Mont-Tremblant the best stage to organize an event of that size? The track layout is exceptional, the drivers know that, but what about the infrastructure?
The guests at the table had every difficulty in the world to predict the event’s attendance. We have learned that grandstands able to accommodate 8,000 people will be built on the front straight. Elsewhere around the track, it will be general admission.
“It’s a long-term investment,” stated Mr. Gentilozzi without convincing anyone. “If 25,000 people come to see the race and they are happy with the show, 50,000 will come the following year,” continued Mr. Gentilozzi.
Then again, room will be needed to accommodate them…
The event is visibly not completely well put together by the organizers.
The Champ Car race at Mont-Tremblant will be a success on the sporting side of things no doubt and will benefit from the support of the Cirque du Soleil that will organize a “festive atmosphere and an artistic program”, explained Mr. Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil.
But commercially, things are more obscure. Not to mention the fears of numerous local inhabitants, expressed on the Internet, who see the race as an assault on their quality of life in the tranquil Laurentian Mountains. (Related article)