Grand Prix ticket sales racing down to wire
Given that equal parts methanol and blood course through his veins, Ric Forest can easily envision the perfect race week, and he might even pull it off one day.
He chairs the board of directors and is therefore the driving force behind what is now known as the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, an ever-changing corporate entity whose only product hits the City Centre Airport tarmac at speeds of 300 km/h from Friday through Sunday.
Yes, the Champ Cars are back and everything old is new again. There's a new car type, the DP01; six new drivers and a new team, Pacific Coast Motorsports. Sixty vehicles from the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club will race, 24 Hours of LeMans-style, to celebrate the 50th year of that organization. This is the first year for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, quality stock car racing on the undercard, as well as for Jim Haskins, the new general manager of the cacophonous event.
Even with that much movement forward, this year's action will not quite match Forest's utopian vision. But it's getting there. By 2008, or certainly the year after, he wants to capture the essence of the Formula One experience in Montreal, specifically the boisterous street festival component that dominates that city's downtown every summer. The street festival idea was attempted here in 2005, albeit with only six months lead time, and the experiment fizzled on Rice Howard Way and was not tried again last year. Forest thinks it's a winner, done right.
"The mayor is very, very keen to do that," said Forest, who would like to see eight such street events through May and June in order to build momentum for the July race.
"I think it's certainly within our grasp. We intend to have a concert attached to the race as well. There are a bunch of things percolating." He'd love to get motorcycles, F2000 cars and Porsches onto the grid to support the Champ Car Sunday race. He's working on synergistic relationships with the Edmonton Oilers and Northlands and a marketing partnership with Toronto Grand Prix promoters that will put a national face on Champ Car.
"Live, learn and try something else fast" seems to be one of their mottos at Edmonton Grand Prix headquarters, where two previous general managers preceded Haskins.
"It is important with any product that you tweak it, you change it every year," Haskins said.
This is year three for Forest, fellow investors Bruce Saville, Ken Kupsch, David Barlass and Keith Frieser, and several members of the modest-sized Grand Prix management team. Forest said two new investors are in, but he wouldn't identify them other than to say they're Edmonton business people. He did add that first-year GM Greg Macdonald and director Tom Doerksen have "stepped back" and assumed lesser roles.
They were instrumental in getting the Grand Prix up and running in 2005 and, in the beginning, all they wanted and expected was perhaps 150,000 race fans to show up, party down and, hopefully, tell their friends. More at Edmonton Journal