Gold Coast Indy race replaced by faster A1GP cars UPDATE The IndyCar Series won't be returning to the Gold Coast in 2009.
Queensland Premier Ana Bligh announced at a Nov. 11 news conference in Brisbane, Australia, that event organizers - the Queensland government and entertainment/media giant IMG - and the Indy Racing League were unable to reach agreement on a long-term scheduling solution and financial terms.
|In a major coup for A1GP, their Ferrari cars with their screaming Ferrari engines will take over the streets of Surfers Paradise|
The IndyCar Series made its debut on the streets of Surfers Paradise in late October as a non-points race won by Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske -- the first Australian to win in the event's 18 years (formerly sanctioned by CART and Champ Car). The Gold Coast event, along with the Edmonton race in July, was added to the schedule after the unification of North American open-wheel racing in February.
During Nikon Indy 300 race weekend meetings, officials of the sanctioning body presented date options to carnival organizers to either dovetail the event its annual trip to Twin Ring Motegi or shift it to March. The Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19 will be the penultimate race on the 18-event IndyCar Series schedule -- preceding the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights championship weekend Oct. 9-10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2009 season kicks off April 6 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
For the past 10 years, the Gold Coast race weekend has been held in late October to fit the schedule of the V8 Supercar Championship (an Australian-based stock car series that completed its 13-race campaign last weekend in Bahrain).
"They have an expanded series of events and our Indy clashes with the early part of the American football season," Queensland Minister of Sport Judy Spence said. "Moving our race to March as they had requested was not an option due to the clash with the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Clipsal V8 race in Adelaide. In addition, a March race would have involved track construction right in the middle of January school holidays and we would not tolerate Gold Coast residents being inconvenienced."
The Nikon Indy 300 featured a 24-driver starting grid that played to an announced race day crowd of 97,000 spectators lining the picturesque street circuit.
"We are disappointed that we could not find suitable solutions for both the IndyCar Series and Gold Coast Indy organizers, but it was not due to lack of effort," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League. "Chairman Terry Mackenroth and general manager Greg Hooton rolled out the red carpet for the IndyCar Series last month and they are to be commended for their efforts in conjunction with the Queensland government.
"We appreciate the efforts and support of the organizers and the government to North American open-wheel racing dating back to its debut at Gold Coast in 1991, but we will move on offering our competitors one of the most diverse and challenging schedules in all of motorsports. The 2009 schedule features 10 oval races, three permanent road courses and five temporary circuits, including the debut of the IndyCar Series at Long Beach and Toronto."
Resolution of the Australian trip will present some long-term North American scheduling opportunities for the IndyCar Series.
"We're happy with '09, but what it does do give us flexibility for 2010," Angstadt said. "A Cleveland, a Portland - some of these venues that have real historical significance on the Champ Car calendar -- are very interested in holding a race."
Gold Coast race organizers will move forward with a five-year contract with the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports as the international open-wheel component to the October event weekend. IndyCar.com11/10/08 The Gold Coast Indy 300 has been canned in favor of a new carnival featuring faster cars, Premier Anna Bligh has announced.
The new carnival will be held on the Gold Coast every October and still feature the off-track entertainment and events that lured thousands to Indy every year, she said.
Ms Bligh said the new series would feature the faster A1GP cars instead of Indy cars as well as V8 supercars.
"I am sure the A1GP will be a terrific attraction for both `revheads' and new fans to the world of motorsport," Ms Bligh said.
"It will give a new lease of life to our event on-track with all the fun and excitement off-track also set to continue."
The State Government has been negotiating with the owners of the Indy Racing League over scheduling clashes but refused to move the racing carnival to March at the request of the US-based league.
An in-principle agreement with the European A1GP has been drawn up and the deal will be finalized within a week.
An annual Indy carnival has been held on the Gold Coast since 1991.
Indy car racing and an A1 Grand Prix were similar but staged in a different format, Fairfax Media motorsport writer Peter McKay said.
"(An A1GP) has a sprint race and then a feature race, whereas Indy just had the one, the Indy 300 each year," he said.
"So you've got two slightly shorter races."
Mr. McKay said he believed A1GP racing was "quite an exciting format".
"The racing that I've seen I've really enjoyed," he said.
A1GP racing didn't have a "massive" following in Australia in the way that Formula One and IndyCar racing is supported, Mr. McKay said, but he didn't think Indy fans would be disappointed with the new carnival.
"Indy is Schoolies for adults, isn't it?" he said.
"The racing is incidental."
The Indy Racing League had asked the State Government to reschedule the Gold Coast event to March but such a move wasn't possible, Minister for Sport Judy Spence said.
"(It) would have involved track construction right in the middle of January school holidays and we would not tolerate Gold Coast residents being inconvenienced in that way," she said.
But Ms Spence said the A1GP series was "one of the newest and most exciting in the world".
"The audience for A1GP continues to grow each year with the broadcast reaching more than 700 million household across the world during this year's season," she said.
"Television exposure equals tourism dollars and more international tourists to our shores.
"Our motor racing carnival generates around $60 million for our economy each year and in these tough times it provides a terrific boost for the local economy and community."
This year's Indy carnival has been nominated for a Queensland Tourism Award, with the winners to be announced on Friday. BrisbaneTimes.com