Champ Car eyes race in Athens UPDATE #8 At Tuesday's Champ Car announcement for its two new Europe races, Champ Car president Steve Johnson was asked about the rumored Athens race and he left the door open for a possible third race in Europe.
"I would say it definitely would not happen in 2007. But we never say never, so we'll look at any opportunities that come along. If it makes good business sense and supports the direction that we're going, we would definitely be there.
"So I don't think anything other than there are no other venues right now that we're saying, no, we're not going to in Europe. We would look at expanding if it makes good sense for us.
"We are launching six new venues in one year [Las Vegas streets, Zhuhai, St Jovite and Phoenix streets are the others] which has never been done before in Champ Car or before that, CART, history.
"But thanks to the huge influx of European drivers and European sponsors, there is the chance for more races in Europe as soon as 2008. We want to do what's best by our series, our fans and our sponsors."
01/08/07 Vaso Gizikis told The Galveston County Daily News that everything is falling in place for Champ Car to race in Athens in 2008. "We're now in the final stages of the contract with Champ Car. It's really moving along," she added. "I don't like to wait until the last minute for anything. In fact I'll be ahead of time."
Planned for the second week of June 2008, the Greek Grand Prix is set to be contracted and approved by Champ Car in the very near future. Champ Car is, of course, the same people who race here in Houston. Expansion outside the United States isn’t irregular; just to Greek soil is. So this event will be a Greek — as well as a Champ Car — first.
How it came about was a little, well, chauvinistic.
“I was very upset,” Gizikis said in her thick Greek accent. “They had an F1 race in Turkey. So I approached Champ Car and asked them if they were interested in doing a race in Greece. They said they were, so I started doing the work.”
If you don’t know the history, Greece and Turkey have never had the best of relationships. Throughout the years, the two have had their skirmishes.
Eventually the Turks moved on; the Greeks, well, didn’t. They still harbor somewhat of a grudge. And seeing the GP in Turkey was enough to prompt Gizikis, a five-foot dynamo of a woman, to act quickly.
The Acropolis Rally, a World Champions event that’s been a tradition in Greece for decades, recently saw a huge surge of popularity when the first stages were contended in the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
So why not use the same strategy?
“It’s going to be run on the old airport in Athens, which is now an Olympic facility. We’re now in the final stages of contract with Champ Car. And already the Greek press is going crazy about it. Even the European press has been doing a lot about it. Autosport has done three stories on it. We brought a driver to test already. It’s really moving along.”
The old Athens International Airport, quaint as it was, was small by modern terms. But it was certainly big enough to host a Grand Prix race. Right on the Aegean Sea, it’s just a few miles from downtown Athens and the Pireaus port (gateway to the Greek islands). In addition, some of the most affluent neighborhoods are right there near the GP, so dining and nightclubs will be plentiful. And unlike the rest of Europe, Greece is still relatively inexpensive — even during a Grand Prix race.
11/27/06 As we told you below, we met Vasilis Zahos in Mexico City and this Hot News item confirms he will test an Atlantic car today with and eye toward Champ Car in 2008.
11/14/06 We can now reveal the proposed 4.1-km Athens Champ Car Circuit (subject to change) as provided to AutoRacing1.com by sources from Greece at this past weekend's Mexico City race. The cars would run clockwise around the airport track at the northwest end of the airport. The track surface would be a permanent installation with temporary bleachers erected each year. Mark C.
11/12/06 We met Greek youngster Vasilis Zahos (pictured right) in Mexico City Sunday and he is very enthusiastic about being in the Atlantic Series in 2007 and he hopes to move up to Champ Car in 2008, just in time for the Athens, Greece race to come onboard. We also met Ms. Vaso Gizikis who is the point person for the race promoter for the Athens race.
She told AutoRacing1.com, "Champ Car is doing everything right these days and we hope to complete a deal to run a Champ Car race in Athens in mid-June, 2008. Nothing is signed yet but things are falling into place and the negotiations are gaining great momentum."
We learned that indeed the plan is to hold the race at the old Athens airport shown below. A 4.1-km, 2.56-mile permanent track has been designed on the west-end of the airport near the Greek Olympic facilities that were built. "It is a spectacular setting," said Gizikis. "You won't believe how beautiful it is. All of Greece is behind this project. We will do it with pride." Mark C.
10/28/06 Recall Kevin Kalkhoven's quote that Champ Car must have "nationals" at every foreign venue they race at. Well, then Champ Car must seek a Greek driver if the Athens race is a real possibility. Autosport reports that Greek Racer Vasilis Zahos, younger brother of A1GP driver Nikos Zachos, has been linked to a Champ Car Atlantic ride with Conquest Racing. Of course Mike Lanigan of Mi-Jack is a key part of the Mi-Jack Conquest Champ Car team and also the race promoter in Houston and Cleveland. If the rumor is true that Lanigan and his race promoter partner Chuck Kosich are also behind the attempt to hold a race in Athens, it would make sense for him to arrange for a Greek youngster to get a year in Atlantics with the Conquest team ahead of an Athens Champ Car race in 2008. Mark C.
10/28/06 Although we were told by Champ Car sources that the Athens race won't happen in 2007, it could still happen in 2008 as we understand it. While we were asked to keep the location secret, Autosport Magazine let the cat out of the bag in their October 19th issue so here is what we know. The proposed race, led by the promoters of the Houston Champ Car race around the Astrodome, have proposed a 5-year deal to hold a Champ Car race at the old Athens Airport. Though not in the heart of the city, it right outside the heart to the south (between the suburb of Kalamaki and Gilifadha) and offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. Autosport reports the sticking point is that the Greek Authorities want just a 3-year deal, not 5, but we hear it is more than that....i.e. money.
08/27/06 We heard that the Athens race location is pretty spectacular and that the promoter has some very big plans. Stay tuned as this rumor unfolds.......
08/25/06 AutoRacing1.com sources in Montreal say that the leading candidates for Champ Car's return to Europe in 2007 are Assen in Holland and Athens, Greece. We are not at liberty to say where in Athens the race will be, just that it will be a very good track layout.
However, negotiations are ongoing with both promoters and the deals may not be signed when the 2007 schedule is released in a few weeks. If so, Champ Car is not sure they will initially show them on the schedule until everything is in place.
Bernie Ecclestone has been making noise about racing in Athens, but so far the money isn't there for F1.
Our revised guess at the 2007 schedule:
April 8 Las Vegas (Confirmed - Easter Sunday)
April 15 Long Beach (Confirmed)
April 22 Houston (Confirmed)
May 20 Zhuhai, China (Confirmed)
June 17 Portland (Tentative)
Jun 24 Cleveland (Confirmed)
July 8 Toronto (Tentative)
July 22 Edmonton (Tentative)
July 29 San Jose (Confirmed)
Aug. 12 Denver (Tentative)
Aug. 26 Road America (Tentative)
Sep. 9 or 23 Athens, Greece (Tentative....or LeMans, or Estoril)
Sep. 16 Assen, Holland (Tentative)
Oct. 7 San Antonio (Maybe)
Oct. 21 Australia (Tentative)
Nov. 4 Mexico City (Tentative)
Nov. 18 Phoenix (Confirmed)