TV may decide Surfers fate
Australian TV Channel Seven may ultimately determine the fate of Indy on the Gold Coast.
Amid mounting speculation over the future of the Surfers Paradise race, one week out from this year's event a Channel 7 source has effectively said it has to be October or bust.
Seven's programming communications manager, Tony Stower, told The Bulletin the network could accommodate an Indy broadcast only on the two weekends of mid or late October, or February -- Queensland's most inhospitable month for weather and an unlikely option.
"February is a bit of a window, but really the (current) October date fits pretty well," he said.
Speculation over the future of the Surfers race has been rife since the merger of the Indy Racing League and Champ Cars series earlier this year resulted in the IRL requesting the Gold Coast race to be rescheduled to either late September or early March -- dates not palatable to the State Government or local organizers.
While the Government has maintained it will not budge from the late October date, Sports Minister Judy Spence told The Bulletin yesterday the Government had some alternative dates to offer to IRL powerbrokers when they hit the Coast next week.
But any change would have to dovetail with broadcaster Channel 7's schedule and the V8 Supercars' calendar.
"We are prepared to negotiate dates, but it's about what's good for the Gold Coast," said Ms Spence. "But it's also what's good for TV and Channel 7 -- that's very important as well."
But Mr. Stower said it would be difficult to accommodate a broadcast slot any time from late February until late September. Seven's AFL broadcasts start with the NAB Cup in late February through to the AFL final on the last weekend of September.
Organizers have ruled out the following two weekends due to the NRL grand final and the Bathurst 1000. Then from November, Seven heads into its heavy horse racing and golf commitments, said Mr. Stower.
Ms Spence said apart from broadcast issues, the V8s had to be considered.
"They're (V8s) a very important part of it, so then there aren't too many windows that are open to us, I agree," she said.
V8 boss Tony Cochrane said he discussed the IRL's proposed alternative September and March dates with Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth earlier this year.
"The conversation was pretty short," said Mr. Cochrane.
"They (IRL's dates) were unacceptable to us for a variety of reasons."
One Indy insider believed the most likely scenario was for the Indy Cars to bypass the Surfers event next year -- as its 2009 schedule had already been set -- and return in 2010 under a new and expanded calendar.
But Ms Spence maintained that there was still a strong desire from the IRL to keep racing at Surfers and fully expected them to come in 2009.
"I think the fact that they are bringing out 24 cars with the best drivers is a very good indication of goodwill ... they aren't shortchanging us in terms of who they are bringing out, they are bringing out their best teams," she said.
But Ms Spence said if the IRL didn't come in 2009, another international series could easily be slotted into its place and in time for October, 2009.
She indicated the Government had already put out feelers for alternative series, but declined to say which. Goldcoast.com.au