Surfers the secret to a bright Champ Car future
Champ Car Director of Communications David Higdon had been told all year: `Just wait until you get to Surfers'.
The man charged with planning the series' future had been looking for ideas, strategies -- a blueprint to grow the championship.
But whenever he pushed for a think tank, he got the same reply.
"I only took over the position in May and that is all I kept hearing -- wait until you get to the race in Surfers," said Higdon yesterday.
"Well I am here now and I can see what they are talking about.
"It is like a light bulb went off inside my head."
Higdon, 46, has just come from eight years in tennis where he oversaw communications and marketing for the ATP, the worldwide men's tennis circuit.
As the head of strategic development for Champ Cars, Higdon says the Surfers race not only houses the blueprint, but also the personality that can take the series out of its worrying rut.
Rumors have dogged the event this year that there is a cloud over the series and that the Gold Coast carnival may head towards a V8-only weekend.
Higdon says that rumor is far from reality.
"We are actually very excited about 2008," he said.
"There are several exciting things that we have in the works that we need to make sure get done 100 per cent before we release the details and therefore the schedule for next year.
"A couple of things are key to us. We have to solidify the teams and we want to have a good balance between the US events and the non-US events.
"We had a great entry into Europe this year with two new races and the reality is, do we add another race or two for 2008 or solidify those two new events?"
Whatever direction Champ Cars takes with that scheduling, one thing is for certain, all races in 2008 will have more of a Gold Coast flavor.
"This is the perfect model for a Champ Car event," Higdon said.
"It has been here for 17 years and progressively grown and solidified its fan base.
"We have to do things at each event as they are done here.
"We cannot come in on Thursday and leave on Monday.
"I will not let that happen next year. It is important to have a full week of activities."
More than that, Higdon believes Team Australia driver Will Power is also the face to boost Champ Cars.
"We think that Will Power is not only a big Australian fan favorite, but has huge potential to be a global name," said Higdon.
"I have spent a significant amount of time with him and I am convinced, because of the way he carries himself and his personality, he could be a big name for Champ Car for the future.
"Of course being an Australian he will have a fan base here but the Americans took to him pretty big this year.
"Will Power can cross over (to attract fans from different countries). There are not a lot of athletes that can do that, but we believe that Will Power can."
With Sebastien Bourdais leaving Champ Cars after dominating the series for four seasons, Higdon says the Aussie assault led by Power is a major part of Champ Cars future.
"It is not ridiculous to suggest that an Aussie Flagship could steer Champ Car," he said.
"Certainly Will, with the likes of Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos, will carry the Champ Car mantle next year.
"It will be an interesting mix of characters and personalities and you will still have your veterans like Paul Tracy and some rookies coming in.
"Will is the perfect example of how we want to build a fan base, and the profile of the series around a driver. Last year he was an exciting rookie, this year he is top of the grid, winning races.
"He is really carrying the mantle of Champ Cars and 2008 is potentially a huge breakthrough year for Will. Fans like aggressive driving and Will has that." More at Goldcoast.com.au