IndyCar stars to return to Surfers UPDATE Ryan Briscoe expects a hearty ovation from spectators Oct. 24 as the last champion of an open-wheel race on the temporary Surfers Paradise, Australia, street circuit. That and because he's a Sydney native.
Team Penske's Briscoe and Will Power will be joined by IZOD IndyCar Series stars Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani and Dario Franchitti, and an international lineup of drivers for the revamped race in Queensland. The former Champ Car - and in October 2008 an IndyCar Series non-points race won by Briscoe - is now solely a round of the Australian V8 Supercar series.
"It will be a lot of fun racing against a bunch of big-name drivers all in foreign equipment that we're not used to," Briscoe said as he waited out the rainstorm that created an abbreviated testing day at Kansas Speedway. "It's actually a team I did two races with back in '06 - Holden Racing, the factory GM team down there - so it's really good. It will be fun going back to Surfers Paradise as the reigning IndyCar race winner. I'm sure there will be a lot of support."
Briscoe is hopeful of joining the Holden Racing team two weeks earlier to compete in the Bathurst 1000in New South Wales - Australia's biggest race event. The IZOD IndyCar Series' season finale is Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Gold Coast 600 format includes two drivers per car, with each two-car team getting one international driver. The team will place that driver with one of its regulars, while the second car will be driven by the team's other regular driver and another driver selected at the team's discretion. Twin 300-kilometer races are scheduled for Oct. 23 and 24. IRL PR04/22/10 More than a few people in the Izod IndyCar Series lament the loss of the event in Surfers Paradise, Australia that featured America's top open-wheel series from 1991 to 2008. Now a handful of Indy car drivers from present and past alike are getting the chance to return and race down under.
After a failed one-year experiment in which Gold Coast organizers attempted to replace Indy cars with the now-bankrupt A1GP open-wheel series, the Surfers weekend has been rebooted and rebranded as the Armor All Gold Coast 600, an endurance race for the Australian V8 Supercar championship on Oct. 24.
The twist: the inclusion of 18 international drivers, including current IndyCar Series stars Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Will Power and Alex Tagliani. Five other drivers who raced Indy cars at Surfers also will compete, topped by series champions Sebastien Bourdais and Jacques Villeneuve and 1997 Surfers CART race winner Scott Pruett.
"There are so many of us who seriously missed not racing on the Gold Coast last year, and it's great news that the event has survived last year's drama and will move forward with this unique format," Power said.
Each of the international stars has been paired with one of the 18 V8 Supercar teams that compete in the series' endurance races. They'll race on a shortened version of the legendary Surfers Paradise street course. Other changes include a new family-friendly focus that includes an average 20 percent reduction in ticket prices and the addition to what is being billed as "a massive three-day music extravaganza featuring some of the world's biggest acts."
The Australian race was perhaps the most popular in the series among Indy car drivers, who appreciated the warm welcome from the local fans and the impressive promotion of the event. V8 Supercars were added to the Indy car bill in 1997, and over the next decade, grew into the role of co-headliners.
"The Gold Coast event is one of the most special in world motorsports and to have the chance to go back down there and race -- in no less than a V8 Supercar -- is going to be something pretty special," said Franchitti, who won the 1999 CART race at Surfers. "When I was first contacted about the idea, I thought it was fantastic, and when the opportunity came up to join James [Courtney] at Dick Johnson Racing, it was the icing on the cake.
"I have always been a fan of V8 Supercars, and I've been bugging a few friends in Australia for a drive at Bathurst for a few years, but dates have never fallen in my favor," Franchitti added. "To win at Surfers Paradise in both a Champ Car and V8 Supercar would be something pretty special."
Australian stars Briscoe and Power and Australia-born New Zealander Dixon are excited for the opportunity to compete at home after spending most of their careers racing in Europe or America.
"I'd say 90 percent -- no, 110 percent -- of the drivers always loved that race," said Dixon, who will team with the Kelly brothers (Todd and Rick) in a Jack Daniel's Racing Holden Commodore. "It was the best race that we went to and everybody looked forward to it. Everybody would fly in a week before the race. A lot of the races here in America you fly in the Thursday night before it starts on Friday.
"It's a shame that we're not back there in the IndyCar [Series], but to obviously go back in a V8 is going to be even cooler."
"My parents are happy because they don't have to pay for an international airfare," joked Briscoe, who will compete for Toll Holden Racing. "I guess I am the defending international champion after winning the final IndyCar race in 2008, and I would like to keep that record intact.
"It will be a lot of fun racing all the other international drivers that don't race V8 Supercars for a living," he said. "There will be a lot of talent, but also a lot of inexperience in those cars. It's a daunting track with fast sections and close walls so there could be a bit of carnage along the way." ESPN.go.com