ALMS wants to replace IRL in Surfers
Another rival motorsport series to replace IndyCars on the Gold Coast has emerged with news that billionaire race series owner Don Panoz would be willing to race in Surfers Paradise.
Mr. Panoz, a pharmaceutical magnate who 10 years ago founded the American Le Mans series, told The Bulletin that while he was not seeking to slot into Surfers should the Indy Racing League decide not to return in 2009, he would be happy to talk to organizers about bringing his sports cars Down Under.
"I am not contacting people to say 'hey, you need our series', but if they arrive at a point where they want to talk to the American Le Mans Series about coming here, sure, we'll talk to them," he said.
The ALMS uses mega-fast sports cars from manufacturers including Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, Honda, Ferrari and Peugeot and runs 11 races in North America on both track and street circuits and so would require similar infrastructure to that of IndyCars in Surfers.
This year's Gold Coast Indy winner Ryan Briscoe drove the cars last year, and was voted ALMS Rookie of the Year.
News Ltd's national motoring editor Paul Gover described the cars as 'massively fast'.
"They're basically the fastest thing outside of Formula 1," said Mr. Gover.
"At Le Mans itself they can reach speeds of up to 350km/h in the straight."
Mr. Gover said the presence of household-name manufacturers including Audi and Corvette also gave the series a wider appeal, more spending power and sponsorship clout.
"Having these manufacturers involved means there are more entities to spend money on marketing and bringing guests out here," he said.
But Mr. Panoz, who raced his series in Adelaide almost eight years ago, was careful to appear low-key about potentially taking over where the IRL left off.
"Look we have a great series and city or street racing is nothing new to us, but it's not up to me -- it's up to Queensland, up to the Government, up to the Minister of Tourism," he said.
"I don't want to go out there and start selling myself as an alternative -- the people have to decide if they want to talk to us first."
Mr. Panoz, who lives on the Gold Coast for almost four months a year, had a five-year deal to stage his race in Adelaide from 2000, but the South Australian Government reneged on the contract after only one event which, as a stand-alone race, attracted 162,000 people.
He said the axing was to do with timing.
ALMS racing in the US attracts a high-income demographic in the 25 to 51-year age bracket and was a 'better spectacle' than IndyCars, said Mr. Panoz. Goldcoast.com