Gold Coast race officials fly to Indy to finalize
Gold Coast Indy 300 General Manager Greg Hooton and Chairman Terry Mackenroth will fly to the US this today to finalize a deal to make the iconic Australian event a part of a new era of international open-wheel racing.
|Nelson Philippe celebrates win in Surfers in 2006|
The Australian race was confirmed as an important part of the new unified IndyCar Series between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series, which was formerly ratified with a media conference in Miami, Florida this morning.
At this stage the 2008 IndyCar Series consists of 16 race weekends, starting at Miami on March 29 and will grow to 18 with the inclusion of Australia and Edmonton.
IndyCar Series organizers will meet with Hooton and Mackenroth and with Edmonton officials in an effort to make their inclusion in the 2008 championship as seamless as possible.
Existing Champ Car teams will run their 2007 Panoz DP01 chassis for the last time in a one-off race at Long Beach in April on the same weekend as the IRL race at Motegi, Japan and both races will count towards the 2008 IndyCar Series title.
“There were a lot of positive words said about our event at today’s media conference and we look forward to our discussions over the next few days,” said Hooton.
“Obviously there are a lot of logistical issues that we need to work our way through in this important transitional period, but the new-look series wants to accommodate us.
“The response to this morning’s media conference by the media and the motorsport community in general has been amazing and points to a fantastic future – not only for our event, but for the sport as a whole.”
The Gold Coast event is heading into its 18th year on October 23-26 and had become the crown jewel of the Champ Car World Series.
The Champ Car World Series has shared equal billing with Australia’s V8 Supercar Series for the past six years on the streets of the Gold Coast and the two have combined to provide one of the world’s great on-track programs.
This morning’s media conference was streamed live on the internet and was attended by one of the largest media contingents seen at an open-wheel media conference for many years outside of the Indy 500.
It was also attended by the majority of IRL and Champ Car team owners and drivers.
Indy Racing League CEO Tony George shared in the relief and reveled in the significance of the past five days in which he reached a unification agreement with Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe.
”I have received hundreds of congratulatory emails from fans, drivers, sponsors and others who love our sport," said George.
”All agree that the future is bright for IndyCar racing and the time to unify our sport is now.
”Our whole racing community is excited and energized about unification and everybody is working hard toward the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 29.
“We look forward to our scheduled meeting with Australian race officials over the next few days and working towards making the Australian race part of the 2008 schedule.
“In 2009 we will start with a clean sheet of paper and it really presents some exciting opportunities. I relish the opportunity for a 20-race season.
“Having too much time on our hands is not a good thing. We have a lot of great building blocks we can use to build on an already solid foundation.”
Kalkhoven, who will continue to field a team in the new-look series, said he was excited at today’s official announcement.
“I’m thrilled we now have a unified open-wheel racing series that will feature great drivers, a diversity of world-class venues and numerous top-notch teams,” said Kalkhoven.
“I applaud Tony George for his commitment to the sport and join him in now focusing solely on the future of open-wheel racing in North America.
“I'm eager for our team to race this season and certainly will do all I can to help advance our sport in the short and long term.”
Assisting transitional teams is the TEAM (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix) program, which provides a $US1.2 million foundation per car for full-schedule operations.
Augmenting the program for teams that display a financial ability to compete all season will be a one-year Honda basic engine lease agreement and two Dallara chassis from a pool of new and used cars to the extent of the pool available for up to two seasons.
"I want to especially thank Al Speyer of Bridgestone/Firestone and Robert Clarke and Erik Berkman of Honda Performance Development for their overwhelming support of this initiative to unify our sport," said George, who on March 11, 1994, announced plans for an open-wheel racing series – including the Indianapolis 500 - as an alternative to CART competition.
CART, which had sanctioned IndyCar racing since 1979 - when the organization broke away from the United States Auto Club (USAC) - went bankrupt in 2003. It re-emerged as the Champ Car World Series in 2004 after being purchased by Kalkhoven, Forsythe and other investors.
The Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix will be the final race under its banner on April 18-20.
KEY NOTES ON THE UNIFICATION
* Champ Car teams committing to the IndyCar Series and demonstrating the ability to fund operating budgets will be provided:
* One-year Honda basic engine lease
* Two Dallara chassis from a pool of new and used cars to the extent of the pool available for up to two seasons
* US$1.2 million per car from the IndyCar ‘TEAM’ program.
- At least two race venues from the Champ Car World Series schedule will be added to the IndyCar Series schedule in 2008 if the parties reach agreement. Discussions are proceeding to add events in Edmonton, Canada and Surfers Paradise, Australia to this year's current 16-race schedule. The IndyCar Series has scheduled meetings with both of these venues to discuss the
- The historic Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car race finale will be run the same weekend as the already scheduled IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. The 2008 Grand Prix of Long Beach will be Champ Car’s final race. Champ Car will promote the race as its ‘Finale.’ Champ Car will conduct the race and the IndyCar Series will require any teams taking advantage of the incentives offered by the Indy Car Series to compete at Long Beach. Since these teams will be missing the Motegi race, they will be awarded points and prize money as if they were competing at Motegi. Beginning in 2009, the Grand Prix of Long Beach will be part of the IndyCar Series schedule.
- IndyCar Series officials met with Champ Car World Series teams at an IndyCar Series ‘orientation’ held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday. The nine Champ Car teams that participated in the 2007 season were all in attendance.
- IndyCar Series officials have developed an assistance program that assigned an IndyCar Series team to work directly with a Champ Car World Series team to assist in the transition to the IndyCar Series cars and rules. For example, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing from the Champ Car World Series has been paired with Rahal Letterman Racing – the two share a common link, as Bobby Rahal, co-owner of RLR, is the father of NHLR driver Graham Rahal. Other team pairings will be announced over the coming days.
- IndyCar Series officials have scheduled individual meetings with Champ Car World Series teams.
- IndyCar Series officials began preliminary discussions with ESPN/ABC regarding the expanded 2008 IndyCar Series schedule.
- In the agreement in principle, the IndyCar Series will purchase various non-tangible assets such as intellectual property and historical records from Champ Car. In addition, the IndyCar Series will purchase the Champ Car Medical Transporter.
The inclusion of the Gold Coast Indy 300 as part of the unified series will mean the return of some great racing names, including Michael Andretti, who will call the shots from pit lane for his son Marco.
Michael Andretti won the Gold Coast race in 1994 and also shared the podium with his father, Mario, who enjoyed his last podium finish on the streets of the Gold Coast.
”Everyone can now focus on taking the IndyCar Series to new heights for the good of our sport and everyone involved in it,” said Andretti. Gold Coast Indy 300 PR