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Savannah close to getting major auto race
Savannah is close to getting a second chance as an Indy racing stop.

The GreenPrix USA Series, a new open-wheel racing organization, plans to stage its debut race next St. Patrick's Day weekend on the Hutchinson Island road course.

GreenPrix owner Ben Johnston is working with the city, county and Georgia Ports Authority to finalize the deal.

"We're still in the due-diligence phase right now, and everybody is really excited about this," said Johnston, a media-marketing mogul based in Atlanta. "It's not in concrete yet, but we're working in that direction."

GreenPrix USA Savannah, scheduled for March 13-15, would be the first professional competition held on the Hutchinson Island track since the 1997 Dixie Crystals Grand Prix. That race was part of the Indy Lights Series, a Champ Car minor league circuit. The race was supposed to be held again in 1998 and 1999 but the local organizers went bankrupt and Savannah lost the race.

The track officially reopens to racing with next week's Hilton Head (S.C.)/Savannah Historics, a two-day vintage race car rally held in conjunction with the Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance & Motoring Festival.

Another exhibition, the American Grand Prize Centennial, is scheduled for next month. The Centennial marks the 100th anniversary of the inaugural running of what is today known as the U.S. Grand Prix. That race was staged on Savannah's streets in 1908, 1910 and 1911.

Fast cars

The GreenPrix USA cars will move around the Hutchinson Island track a little faster than their forbearers of a century ago. The series will utilize the cars built for the Champ Car World Series, machines scrapped when Champ Car merged with the Indy Racing League earlier this year.

Johnston has bought 23 Champ Car machines - including a few off of eBay - and has an agreement with Panoz Auto Development to use its Champ Car equipment. Panoz, a company based in North Georgia, was the series' chassis supplier the previous two years.

Johnston will own all the cars and mandate all use the same parts and equipment, much like the popular IROC Series that pitted stock-car and open-wheel drivers against each other in identical vehicles. That will minimize costs for the teams and ensure equal competition on the race track.

"One of the problems with racing today is it's so expensive," Johnston said. "There's a competition on the track and competition in the wallet. I want to take the wallet out of equation. I feel it's killing racing today. I want to make sure it comes down to the skills of the drivers." More at Savannah Morning News

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