Tony George `feels the love' in Surfers, but will it be enough?
IndyCar boss Tony George has been on the Gold Coast for just a day but he already knows how much Indy means to the city.
|Will Tony George turn his back on the long history of IndyCars at Surfers Paradise?|
At the Premier's official Indy launch last night, Mr. George graciously accepted a souvenir edition of The Gold Coast Bulletin featuring a stylized picture of himself on a specially prepared wrap-around cover.
Asked if he could 'feel the love', Mr. George replied, 'absolutely'.
"Wow, at least you guys get the picture right which is more than they do at home," he said.
IndyCar's head honcho appeared taken with the souvenir edition and even posed for photographs alongside Premier Anna Bligh and Sports Minister Judy Spence with it.
However, Mr. George said he was still uncertain as to when he would meet local Indy representatives to negotiate dates for the Gold Coast's 2009 Indy event.
"I haven't been informed of anything yet," he said. "Plus the rest of the team that has been involved in most of the negotiations is still in a plane on the way here."
Ms Bligh joined The Bulletin in wishing Mr. George 'a very, very special welcome' to the Coast and implored the crowd to make their feelings about Indy known to him.
"Can I ask everyone in the room to make themselves known to Tony George to show him just how much Indy means to the GC -- without monstering him too much," she said.
Ms Bligh said while there was still some uncertainty surrounding the future of Indy on the Gold Coast, the State Government was entering negotiations positively.
Mr. George said he arrived later than expected last night due to the storms that battered the region and said he spent yesterday walking around the Surfers track 'in a torrential downpour'.
The Gold Coast Bulletin understands Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth will hold a press conference today to confirm that an announcement on Indy's future will not be made before the curtain falls on this year's event on Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Mackenroth was predictably tight-lipped about the nature of today's media announcement, but it is believed he will tell race fans not to expect an answer on the Surfers race in a hurry.
While one racing insider said the announcement was a sure sign that the parties cannot do a deal on dates for next year, Mr. Mackenroth said it was simply that a meeting with Mr. George will not happen until late in the weekend.
Indy general manager Greg Hooton said he hoped to lobby Mr. George throughout the four-day event which begins today.
"I will probably catch up with him later tonight (at the official Premier's Indy launch party) to set a time for a meeting," said Mr. Hooton yesterday.
"But I would imagine we will talk fairly regularly over the next four days."
Lower-level meetings are expected between representatives of the two parties over the next two days.
IndyCar officials are understood to want next year's event moved to late September or early October, which would mean a suicidal calendar clash with either the AFL or NRL grand final.
The Queensland Government, which pumps $11 million a year into the race, wants the event to continue in the late October slot occupied for the past decade.
Sports Minister Judy Spence said she expected the atmosphere of Indy to be a powerful selling tool.
"We are very pleased to have Indy representatives here with us this year -- to experience the incredible atmosphere Indy has to offer," she said. "I know they'll love our event and the Gold Coast as much as we do, and I look forward to talking to them."
However, Mr. Hooton said no meeting times had been set at all.
Meanwhile, Mr. George remains as elusive as the solution to the impasse itself.
While sources told The Bulletin Mr. George arrived by private jet in Brisbane on Tuesday evening, one racing insider believed he would not arrive on the Coast until today.
Conrad Jupiters Hotel staff would not allow a Bulletin reporter to present Mr. George with a souvenir copy of The Bulletin on Tuesday night.
The phantom-like Mr. George had requested no calls be made to his room, reception staff said.
Mr. Hooton said he also had no idea of Mr. George's whereabouts yesterday.
"I haven't really checked ... I haven't been following his travel plans," he said.
It leaves Mr. George only Friday or Saturday night for a long-awaited dinner with Sports Minister Judy Spence, who confirmed to The Bulletin last week that she would be dining with Mr. George during his stay. Goldcoast.com