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Ticket sales ‘so far, so good’ for Edmonton IndyCar race
Considering that it was less than 10 weeks ago that the promoters of Edmonton’s resuscitated IndyCar race wheeled out its ticket campaign, sales have been humming along.

Francois Dumontier, the president of Octane Motorsports Events, figures 40 per cent of the tickets have been sold for the July 22-24 race, but did concede it will take some work to sell the next 60.

“So far, so good,” Dumontier said on Wednesday.

Among his stops in Edmonton this week was a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and Travel Alberta.

In two weeks’ time, work will start on the new track at the City Center Airport.

“We’re satisfied with everything at this point,” he continued. “Keep in mind, we didn’t sign the deal until January, so we had a short period of time to set up everything.

“We can see that there’s a real fan base here.”

This will be the seventh open-wheel race in Edmonton, but the first for the Montreal-based Octane group, which signed a three-year deal after the city agreed to ante up for the paving costs of the new track that will go down one of the old runways.

Northlands ran the event the previous three years at a cost of $12.5 million to the City of Edmonton.

“I do run into people who thought the race was gone, so we have a little bit of work to do there,” Dumontier said, “but I don’t think there’s a lot of challenges, just a lot of work to do.”

The track, which had been situated on the west runway of the City Centre Airport since 2005, will now be located on the east runway. That will mean left turns rather than right turns as the drivers speed counter-clockwise around the new 13-turn circuit.

The paving has to be completed by June 6, which would give the asphalt enough time to cure.

After the race, the new stretch of pavement will be converted into parking stalls for NAIT students and the revenue will be used to off-set the $3-million investment. The city is also providing Octane with $5.5 million worth of sponsorship, as well as $1.5 million in services until 2013.

A title sponsor still needs to be reeled in by Octane.

As for his ticket target, Dumontier would not say what his goal is for Year 1, other than he’d like to draw somewhere between the attendance at the first race in Edmonton (a Champ Car record in Canada 200,052 fans) and the 2010 event, which drew well below 100,000.

Octane, which also oversees the Canadian Grand Prix in June and the NASCAR Nationwide in August — both races in Montreal, saw Edmonton as the ideal fit for its operation. Ticket prices were dropped and promises were made that the grandstands would bring event-goers as close to the action as possible.

Some of the best seats at the former track — the grandstand seats at Turn 1 — were not even erected for the 2010 race.

The beer gardens are also going to be back.

“The reality of it is there’s a strong fan base and I don’t want to criticize Northlands, but they irked the market a little bit so, in some ways, we need to work twice as hard. It’s just not a major concern because we are not only here for 2011,” Dumontier said.

“What the fans will discover is that the grandstands will be much closer to the action. That’s important to us. When we came in July, we really thought the seats were too far away from the action. Our fans in Montreal are right over the race track so you can feel the car, smell the rubber. You get more goosebumps.”

The Indy drivers started their engines on March 27 in St. Petersburg, Fla., After four races, Dario Franchitti, the defending series champ, has a seven-point advantage over Will Power and a 35-point lead on Tony Kanaan, who is third in the points standings. Canadian Alex Tagliani is sixth.

The next race is May 1 at Sao Paulo, Brazil. Edmonton Journal

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