IRL wants more money to return to Surfers
Indy Racing wants more money if it is to return to Surfers Paradise next year, according to government and racing connections.
A highly-placed Government source has told The Bulletin the Indy Racing League has placed a higher price tag on its appearance on the Gold Coast in the future, but still predicated on getting a date that suited them.
IRL chief Tony George confirmed that money was one of the issues on the table.
"It (money) is a factor but not the only factor," he said yesterday.
"Obviously, depending on the situation, money may then become a factor after we work out a date. A date is the first issue, money is second."
Mr. George seemed genuinely impressed with the Surfers race, but said the scale and professionalism of the event had not influenced his negotiating position.
"It has certainly lived up to everyone's billing," he said. "But no, nothing has really changed. There are still a few issues we have to come to agreement on before we can make a decision on the future."
Even if the parties can reach agreement on dates and the bill to bring IndyCars back Down Under, there will be the further issue of whether the race would count towards the championship.
"There are other issues, which is whether or not it would be a points race, but again I guess we can't decide on that until after we decide on a date," said the IRL founder and chief executive.
"The teams would come down here for the right reasons but it's gonna be tough to convince them it's some place we need to be while the financial considerations and championship considerations are unresolved."
Conquest Racing team co-owner Eric Bachelart backed Mr. George's assessment, saying that financial considerations loomed large.
"The big question is that whether it is good value for the North American-based sponsors for the whole year," said Mr. Bachelart, in Surfers for the sixth time.
"This is mainly where the issue is. Personally, I like this race a lot. It's the second best event after Indy 500 and I would like to come back again here to race, but from an economic point of view I am not sure."
Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth said the pressure was now on to decide the race's future.
"We have a deadset, drop dead cut off of 14 days from now (to have the Indy future sorted)," he said.
Sports Minister Judy Spence, who met Mr. George and IRL operatives several times over the past four days, said dates remained a hurdle.
"They would prefer to come in March and we have said March is not an acceptable time for us," she said.
"It takes 100 days to construct the track and we just cannot start that in January in the middle of a Gold Coast holiday season."
On a positive note, she said the IRL bosses and negotiating team had now seen the event first-hand and appreciated the intricacies and special requirements of a street race in a busy tourist town and understood the importance of the race to the local economy and community.
The reason both parties had negotiated in such good faith was that the IRL continued to see the Surfers race as an opportunity to expand the series, she said.
However, Indy Racing League commercial division president Terry Angstadt indicated on Thursday that any expansion of their calendar would be unlikely in either 2009 or 2010 due to the relative youth of the newly-merged IRL.
However, Ms Spence still held out hope for IndyCars reappearing on the Coast next year.
"I certainly wouldn't say they have scratched 2009," she said.
Mr. Angstadt was typically non-committal about negotiations in the pits shortly before race time yesterday, but said one scenario that had been discussed was to skip 2009 and return to Surfers in 2010.
Otherwise, he declined to confirm any tangible progress, only repeating that meetings had taken place 'with a lot of respect on both sides' and that he was hugely impressed by the event.
"It's everything that everybody told us and more," he said. "Everyone has treated us exceptionally well, and the place is packed." Goldcoast.com