Surfers race to be dubbed 'Gold Coast 300'
Prepare the green and the gold -- next year's Surfers Paradise motorsport event, dubbed the 'Gold Coast 300' for now, could be the most patriotic yet, on and off the track.
A1 Grand Prix organizers yesterday promised fans they would not be disappointed by the transition from Indy cars to A1 open-wheelers and revealed plans to smash Indy's on-track and off-track records to cement next year's inaugural race carnival as one of the top international motorsport events.
The 2009 event will look different, with Indy's trademark big-name clashes scrapped, but organizers said the racing series, touted as the 'world cup of motorsport', would deliver patriotic battles between competitive nations.
Former Indy general manager Greg Hooton, who will now manage the Gold Coast 300, said the event would follow the Gold Coast tradition of open-wheelers and V8s but with the added spice of country versus country competition.
"It's not about creating a different event -- it's about making sure we have great racing on track and the same party atmosphere that everyone loves off-track," he said.
"The biggest change will be the country versus country concept and we believe it will help drive more people and different crowds to the event."
However, the loss of the Indy brand juggernaut has prompted fears popular off-track events, including the Miss Indy competition and the Indy Undy Ball, will be scrapped.
After 18 years, the Indy trademark must be scrubbed from the Gold Coast vernacular and there is no finalized replacement as yet.
Mr. Hooton said the event would be nicknamed the Gold Coast Indy 300 until a formal name was minted, but he denied any Indy-linked events would be lost.
"The use of the Indy name will have to change but once we have a new name all the events will take on that new persona," he said.
Procon Leisure International, which runs Miss Indy, said yesterday it would fight to allow current Miss Indy winner Marieka Van Den Bergh to keep her title for the full year, but she would likely crown the next winner with a different title.
"Fortunately, we own the trademark 'Miss Indy' and it's not tied to the Indy Racing League so we could continue to use it indefinitely if we wanted to," said Procon managing director Rosko Dickinson.
"We will probably use 2009 as a transition year, though, and have the new winner crowned with a new title."
He said prime sponsor Bartercard had already indicated interest in continuing its sponsorship of the competition but details would be confirmed early next year.
Sponsorship of the main racing event has yet to be confirmed but commercial deals were not expected to be finalized until contractual arrangements between the State Government and A1GP were locked in next week.
Despite the limbo state, A1 Grand Prix Team Australia principal Alan Jones was delighted with the State Government's in-principle agreement and said A1GP would inject new life into the Gold Coast racing scene.
"This is the best news the Gold Coast has had in a long time," he said.
"We are televised to 155 different counties and we have 25 nationalities represented on the track so it's a major opportunity for this city.
"The people who come to see this race will be impressed -- the pits are more attractive and professional, the colorful cars look amazing and the drivers' performances are just first class."
Mr. Jones said A1 Team Australia already had a head start for the 2009 race with current lead driver John Martin visiting the Indy track recently for a practice run.
Gold Coast Tourism has also relished the prospect of a wider international audience and CEO Martin Winter said he hoped the A1's greater international television exposure would swell visitor numbers over the next few years. Goldcoast.com