Edmonton, Toronto to keep race, Mt Tremblant dead
The result of the merger of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League is this: Edmonton looks like it stays, Toronto should be back next year and Mont-Tremblant looks dead.
IRL boss Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven, former Champ Car co-owner, announced details of the merger of the two open wheel racing series at a news conference Wednesday in Homestead, Fla.
A final schedule for 2008 has yet to be set, but George said they hope to add the popular Edmonton event and Surfer's Paradise, Australia onto the 16-race IRL calendar.
"We do fully anticipate that the Edmonton race will be in the IRL," said Brian Leadbetter, spokesman for race owner Northlands. "The details are still to be worked out."
Organizers of the Grand Prix of Toronto still hold out hope to race this year on a new date, but they expect it will be put on hold and return in 2009.
"We are working to try to get Toronto on the 2008 schedule, but as we go along, it's getting more and more difficult," said Charlie Johnstone, president of the Toronto race.
The Toronto event scheduled for July 4-6 conflicts with an IRL race at Watkin's Glen, N.Y., while Edmonton, set for July 18-20, butts heads with the IRL's Mid-Ohio race. The June 27-29 Mont-Tremblant race clashed with Richmond.
There are open dates the weekend before and after Edmonton, so it would be easy to fit it into the expanded IRL schedule, but Toronto fell in the middle of four straight weeks of IRL events.
Johnstone said securing the venue at Exhibition Place is difficult in the summer, particularly with the Canadian National Exhibition taking over in August.
September is a possibility, but Johnstone said "the reality is that we may have to prepare ourselves for 2009." Next year, he hopes to have the race on its usual early July dates.
"We're still the fifth largest market in North America," he said. "No one wants Toronto off the schedule."
George said the IRL has contractual commitments to its races and can't change them, but he said the entire schedule would be reviewed for 2009 and more former Champ Car events may get in. He favors expanding to 20 races, with half on oval tracks and half on road or street courses.
"What's going to be key is not to disenfranchise anybody so all the best opportunities remain out there for us," George said.
That includes Toronto.
"It falls into the category of those events you don't want to disenfranchise," he said.
The Mont-Tremblant event, held at a pretty mountainside venue two hours north of Montreal, did not draw big crowds last summer for the first race since it moved from Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, but got good reviews in the media has potential to grow.
George was not encouraging, saying only "I don't know. I'm not privy to the commitment there, whether or not that is something people have strong feelings about."
Edmonton drew 167,000 spectators over three days last summer and was one of the best-attended races on the Champ Car schedule. Slam! Sports