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Octane revs up for 2012 Edmonton Indy
Sato leads from pole at last year's race
The day that race series CEO Randy Bernard held his State of IndyCar event in Indianapolis seemed as good a time as any to check in on the state of the 2012 Edmonton Indy race.

It was just under one year ago, after all, when Francois Dumontier, president of race promoter Octane Motorsports Events, met the Edmonton media to outline how the Montreal-based group would succeed with the open-wheel race where Northlands and the City of Edmonton had become drenched in red ink.

“Trust me, it’s a whole different game this year than it was at the same time last year,” Dumontier said in a telephone interview.

At this time last year, Octane had yet to begin selling tickets to the 2011 event; this year, racing fans have been able to purchase tickets since the weekend of the 2011 race last July.

“Even though we had a short period of time to prepare (for the 2011 event), I’m pretty satisfied with the results of the event,” Dumontier said. “Even with the (torrential) rain we had on the Friday, we had a good weekend.

“I feel there is a huge potential out there to grow that event.”

Part of the process of realizing that potential is firming up their presence in Edmonton, which has been non-existent, apart from their updated website, since Octane closed their temporary race office at the City Centre Airport track and parted ways with Anne Roy, the general manager of the 2011 event.

“Obviously, the best thing for me is to have a local GM,” said Dumontier, who conducted interviews over the last two to three weeks with candidates for that job. “My choice is made and I will be in a position to announce that person in the next two or three weeks.

“I want the GM to be there for the long haul and have a presence in Edmonton.”

IndyCar, in general, not just the Edmonton race promoters, have flown beneath the radar for months, especially after the season finale in Las Vegas ended in a horrific, 15-car accident in which two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon lost his life.

Wheldon’s legacy will live on in a variety of ways, not least being the fact that he was intensely involved in testing the new Dallara chassis that will be used on the circuit this year.

Organizers in Edmonton will include a tribute to Wheldon during race weekend July 20-22, which will have added meaning since Wheldon’s widow, Susie, was born in Red Deer and grew up in Lacombe.

“I was there in Vegas (for that race), I lived that,” Dumontier said. “It was a tragic accident.”

This is Year 2 of Octane’s three-year contract with the city and with IndyCar, and it’s pivotal for a variety of reasons.

Obviously, the death of Wheldon shook the entire IndyCar circuit, with Bernard bearing the brunt of criticism for the format of the season-ending race. But IndyCar also enters 2012 without high-profile racer Danica Patrick, the circuit’s only crossover star, who departed to race with NASCAR.

The 2012 series has one fewer race, 16, instead of the 17 scheduled in 2011.

There are some changes Dumontier believes augur well for IndyCar, including the fact that three manufacturers — Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus — will be supplying engines to the series this season.

“We’ve been talking about the negative things that happened to the series, but if there’s one positive aspect it is the fact that the teams will have the choice to run with (one of) three different engines,” Dumontier said. “By experience, when you’ve got more than one engine supplier, the competition on track will be better.

“In the past, for the past few years, Honda was the only engine supplier. Now you’ve got that sense of rivalry and competition among those three engine suppliers.”

An added bonus, potentially, for Octane is striking a deal with one of those suppliers to become the title sponsor of the Edmonton event.

“It has opened a lot of doors for the series and for us as promoters,” said Dumontier, adding that Octane has had discussions with one engine supplier (which he could not name) about being the title sponsor in Edmonton. “Lotus and Chevy are new this year and I don’t think they are entering the (series) to be last on the grid.”

As for developing momentum for the event as a festival extending beyond the hardcore northern Alberta racing fans, Dumontier says that remains a work in progress.

“It takes time to build that (buzz),” said Dumontier, whose company also promotes the Canadian Grand Prix, the Formula One race that has been a fixture in Montreal for more than 30 years. “It’s important for me to have that off-track festivities (element) downtown. More at Edmonton Journal

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