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Little sponsor support for A1GP race in Surfers
RACE organizers for the inaugural A1GP event on the Gold Coast in October will unveil a new name for the event in two weeks, but are still searching for a naming rights sponsor. As the uncertainty over a sponsor continues, it was revealed yesterday that the Porsche Carrera Cup had withdrawn from V8 Supercars 2009 program as a support category. The Gold Coast event's general manager Greg Hooton confirmed to The Bulletin that last year's naming rights sponsor Nikon was unlikely to renew its support this year, and that Honda -- as expected -- had also pulled the pin.

"It's probably unlikely that when we announce the new (event) name that we will have a naming rights sponsor," said Mr. Hooton. "Honda have declined to continue as they are a major supporter of (former race series) the IRL. We're back out in the marketplace looking for an appropriate motorsport brand."

As sports teams and events worldwide struggle to maintain support in the face of the global financial crisis, Mr. Hooton agreed that the tighter economy would make it much tougher to secure sponsors.

But he remained confident the new A1 event would attract enough corporate support to keep it on track.

"Having 19 years of history and the great crowd numbers we have, sure there will be some long and hard conversations, but we're still expecting to achieve our targets."

But the tougher economy claimed another sports victim yesterday with the withdrawal of the Porsche Carrera Cup from the year's V8 series, including the Gold Coast event. V8 Supercars boss Tony Cochrane said Porsche's demise was down to the global meltdown.

"Basically they failed to attract competitors to get a minimum grid," said Mr. Cochrane.

"They were a very professional category ... so we're sorry to see their demise, but it doesn't impact the viability or fan numbers for the V8 championship." One source told The Bulletin the event's new name was 'short, sweet and simple', while Mr. Hooton would say only that the Gold Coast was front and centre of the new moniker and that 'Indy' would not feature with the arrival of the A1GP in its place.

"The Gold Coast will always be a major part of any overall design we do," said Mr. Hooton.

"And we were never going to be able to keep the Indy name."

One of the event's sponsors, Coffee Club, confirmed it would not renew its deal with the 2009 Gold Coast race due to 'budget constraints', while Falken Tires said it was still waiting to see the sponsorship proposals.

Longtime sponsor Bartercard Australia is understood to be wavering in its support, while the Gold Coast City Council has renewed its commitment, as has Lion Nathan with its XXX Gold brand.

Conrad Jupiters managing director Stuart Wing said the company would be 'involved in the 2009 A1GP' and had started discussions with IMG. BP Australia and Coca Cola Amatil did not return The Bulletin's calls yesterday.

A1GP's Australian seat-holder Alan Jones said since the global recession it was inevitable that corporations would scrutinize their involvement but that there was still enough global interest to ensure the race would happen. Mr. Jones said A1GP representatives had been on the Gold Coast recently to finalize arrangements. GoldCoast.com
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