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Surfers Indy race is dead? UPDATE #3 Added photo of a happy Tony George with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.  Will the two work out a deal to continue this great race?  If you have not been there you would not understand.

IRL boss Tony George with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh
Jim Haines/IRL
10/23/08 A row has broken out over comments by a major Indy sponsor that they would withdraw their support because they believe the US-based Indy Racing League is ready to dump the Gold Coast event.

Bartercard Australia says it will continue to support the Gold Coast Indy event.

This follows reports that the company, a long-time sponsor of the race, would withdraw its support as it believed the Indy Racing League had already decided not to return to the Gold Coast next year.

Bartercard executive chairman Wayne Sharpe was reported as saying he had withdrawn $1million in sponsorship in 2009 because of this.

However this morning, Bartercard Australia said Mr. Sharpe had no direct interest in the local company, was not a shareholder or director  and was not authorized to make comments regarding the Australian company's activities and decisions regarding sponsorship.

Chairman of Bartercard Australia, Mr. Murray d'Almeida, said the Nikon Indy 300 was an outstanding event for the Gold Coast and Australia and the company has supported the event for the past 15 years.

Mr. d'Almeida said he had spoken with Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth this morning and assured him of the company's support.

He said he had also spoken with IRL boss Tony George and confirmed Bartercard's enthusiasm for the event. Goldcoast.com

10/23/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I cannot believe that the IRL is going to let this event die.  A fantastic international event destroyed.  Versus.  Now this.  I have lost all faith that IRL management has any clue.  They shall forever be just a pimple on the domestic posterior of NASCAR, which is exactly where the France family and other large ISC shareholders (like the Penskes) want them.  Jeff Golightly

10/23/08 Indy on the Gold Coast is dead, according to one of its major sponsors. Bartercard executive chairman Wayne Sharpe yesterday revealed to The Bulletin the Indy Racing League had already decided not to return to the Gold Coast next year.

As a result he has withdrawn more than $1 million in sponsorship for 2009.

What this means is that not only has the event lost a major sponsor, but it makes the 2008 Miss Indy competition the last, said Mr. Sharpe, who has been told next year's event would feature V8s only.

"Basically next year's event will be a 'Bathurst on the Gold Coast," said Mr. Sharpe. "The reality is they have taken the race off next year's series, despite the rubbish that's been spun here recently.

"We won't be back next year and are already planning for something else, probably in Europe and probably around the (Formula One) Grand Prix in Monaco."

He said race organizers and state politicians knew as much, but had been at pains to avoid delivering bad news before the 2008 event.

The Monaco-based businessman whose company has an annual global turnover of almost $2 billion, said the public had been subjected to a farcical charade by local race organizers and the State Government who would have announced Indy's 2009 involvement by now if there were any chance of the international series returning here.

"They've (politicians and Indy organizers) been trying to avoid any controversy during the event," said Mr. Sharpe, a one-time naming rights sponsor of the race.

"I have put pressure on these guys to tell us exactly whether it's a goer and they won't do it until after the event.

"If you were running this event you'd want to be announcing the details of next year's event at the race, not after it.

"Every other year they've announced it before or during the race -- that's living proof the (2009) race is dead."

Mr. Sharpe, whose company has been involved with Indy since it began in 1991, said the Surfers Paradise race held little interest for US sponsors and that coming to Australia was simply too costly for the race teams.

"Their (US) market is so huge and the money is so huge, that the cost of shipping people around the world is so large, they (IRL) have made a commercial decision based around their American race fans," said Mr. Sharpe.

The IRL's commercial division president Terry Angstadt yesterday said that in its newly-merged incarnation, the IRL was not seeking greater international exposure.

"We are US-based series that also races internationally -- are we looking for lots of international expansion? No we're not," said Mr. Angstadt.

"We think there will be a day where we can expand internationally but it's just probably not in (20)09 or (20)10."

Costs were also a large factor for the IRL, he said.

"Costs are a big consideration. It has to make sense for the drivers, the teams, the promoters, the league -- everybody," he said.

He said the IRL still preferred its late September or March dates so as to avoid any clash with the NFL (American football) season, but had three alternative dates to the Gold Coast's preferred late October date.

Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth, who has remained tight-lipped for months about the future of Indy on the Gold Coast, said a 'binding contract' would be signed within 14 days of the event, but denied the State Government was negotiating with an alternative open-wheel series. Goldcoast.com

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