A1GP has one foot in the grave, plan the funeral

UPDATE #9 With the 11th hour cancellation of the A1GP race in Surfers Paradise, touted as their biggest event, not only can you plan A1GP's funeral (what country or race promoter will ever trust they will show up for their event), you can order the flowers and call the undertaker as well.

10/16/09 “At the moment it’s too early to give an appropriate answer to the question of whether Ferrari has an agreement to supply A1GP engines for the upcoming A1GP season," said a spokesman. Asked whether there is an engine deal with A1GP, the spokesman said that “from a strictly formal point of view, there is not an agreement valid for this coming season. There are ongoing talks about which we would prefer not to comment."

This suggests that the rumors of financial problems may be true.

“There are things that still need to be finalized concerning the engine supply and the licensing agreements which were valid in the past," said the spokesman.

10/15/09 AR1.com has learned that Team Germany is not going to the Surfers race. They see no future for the series.

10/15/09 Organizers of the Gold Coast's showcase event have until today to prove the A1GP cars are booked to travel to Australia or the race could be over before it's even begun.

In scenes of high farce, the State Government yesterday gave organizers 24 hours to produce documents demonstrating the open-wheel racers were headed for the Gold Coast and threatened potential legal consequences.

The confusion and chaos surrounding whether the A1GP race would proceed escalated with the cars still impounded in London because of unpaid debts, tire manufacturer Michelin refusing supplies because it is owed money and vehicle safety modifications unmet.

While team accommodation and visas have been organized, no one has booked for the vehicles to arrive at Brisbane Airport.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas yesterday insisted the Government were "nice people" but warned there would be ramifications if the A1GP racers failed to make the starting grid.

"We will make sure this event takes place and we expect the A1GP to be there," he said. "If not we will take the appropriate legal steps."

The failure of the cars to turn up for their inaugural race would be a major embarrassment for the Government, which invests $11 million annually in the event.

The A1GP was supposed to be the solution to ensuring open-wheel racing continued on the Gold Coast after Indy's demise. However the event has been plagued by problems, including the collapse of a major sponsor.

Event boss Greg Hooton insisted the rest of the event including the V8s would still go ahead – with or without the A1GP cars.

"They (the cars) could still get here on Wednesday morning," he said.

"Quarantine is a speedy process (and) there's a lot of spare capacity in the freight transport market. I'm not even going to speculate on the A1GP not being here."

Team Australia said the required modification was a "six-hour job" while their race car was packed and ready to board a flight from London at 7pm on Saturday.

"What has been confirmed is that there is a booking to load the cargo on Saturday night, which still brings it in on time," TA spokesman Patrick Wedes said.

Several motorsport sources yesterday said the new Superleague Formula, which began in 2008 and is owned by Champions League football teams, could replace the A1 cars.

Gold Coast motels are heavily booked for next weekend and Mr. Hooton insisted the intense speculation had not affected ticket sales.

He said most ticket sales were from walk-up spectators anyway. news.com.au (Related Article)

09/25/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport will be starting Season Five in just over a month with the Nikon SuperGP on 22 to 25 October and a financial restructuring has been put in place to secure its long term future.

A1GP Chairman, Tony Teixeira, has outlined his plans for the series having secured the full financial package necessary to see it grow over the next three to four years. “I wanted to announce this re-financing a long time ago, but the reason it has taken longer than I planned was the size of the package. I could see no reason to look for a one year deal, it had to be for at least three to four years until such a time as the series is independent. This way we can make sure everyone involved in the series has the necessary security and the series is totally creditable."

Teixeira is also working closely with his major partners and suppliers to ensure their continued support. “I shall be meeting all of them personally in the next couple of days. I want them to understand this is a series that is here to stay on the motorsport scene, and they need to know their involvement is with a series that is going from strength to strength."

The way Teixeira sees the series now is as starting with a totally clean sheet with a re-structuring that has no outstanding issues that can hold back its growth: “We have always put on a fantastic show and this is only going to get better." However, he was also realistic about the adverse publicity that the series has received, and was quick to reassure all those involved that many of the stories were very wide of the mark. “I have seen all the stories written over the past few weeks doubting the future of the series, and these are not new to me as I have seen them at the start of every one of our four seasons. These are not things I like to read and I feel frustrated that I cannot always come out and explain exactly what we are doing, but, as you know, we have always delivered every season and race we have committed to," he said.

The series has recently announced a new deal with IMG Sports Media to market its worldwide media rights for the next three years and also the Season Five calendar. Teixeira is now working on further deals, and in the coming weeks the grid for the race in Surfers Paradise will be announced after final deals have been put in place.

The one outstanding issue that will be dealt with soon is the liquidation of A1 Grand Prix Operations Limited, that was a subsidiary of A1 Holdings Ltd. Administration for this company has now been applied for and this will be heard on the 6th October. Teixeira’s message to all of the company’s creditors was: “Our intention is to settle all our outstanding creditors prior to the administration hearing, and would like to thank them for their patience and support.

“We at A1GP have been so lucky to have such loyal support from all our stake holders – management and staff, race promoters, team owners, partners, suppliers, TV rights holders, sponsors and last but not least our fans".

09/25/09 Legal issues surrounding the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport are the greatest indication yet that the series will not make it to the Gold Coast for the Nikon SuperGP in October.

A1 Grand Prix Operations, a subsidiary of A1 Grand Prix Holdings, was put into compulsory liquidation on June 24 in England owing millions of dollars.

It is understood that A1GP Holdings, being the parent company of A1GP Operations, is laying claim to the 25 Ferrari-powered cars, which are due to touch down in Australia for testing at Queensland Raceway in the lead up to the October 22-25 Nikon SuperGP .

Freight company DOT is currently holding the open wheelers along with the series’ pace and medic cars in England because A1GP allegedly owes AU$6.5 million, while the liquidator of A1GP Operations has indicated it will produce evidence proving that company is the true owner of the cars.

"What (A1GP Chairman) Tony Teixeira has been claiming is the assets, i.e. the cars and equipment, belong to A1 Holdings and they are therefore able to carry on with the series; this is not the case," a well-placed source told BigPond Sport.

"It’s done; they are not coming to Australia."

BigPond Sport is aware of court documents, which show the liquidator has made an application to the High Court in England to have the company placed into administration.

It is alleged in the documents that at least one other freight company is holding on to other A1GP Operations assets in another location because of unpaid bills.

A court date is scheduled for October 6 for A1GP Operations to be placed in administration, which has enacted an automatic moratorium that prevents the companies that have A1GP equipment from selling them.

This also allows for the proposed administrator to demand that the goods the companies hold are delivered to the administrator.

The administrator will push for all of the equipment – which besides the cars includes freight containers, tool and tire chests – to be sold off together in the hope of attracting a buyer interested in taking over the series.

It is not out of the realms of possibility that if A1GP Operations goes into administration, A1GP could buy back the equipment to stage its 2009-2010 series and if there is a new buyer they may honor the commitment to head Down Under in October.

Plenty of rumors have surfaced that the A1GP cars will not make it to the grid at Surfers Paradise, but these documents are the most tangible evidence to date confirming that the speculation is correct.

A1GP General Manager, Paul Cherry, contacted BigPond Sport, admitting the series was in financial trouble due to the global economic downturn.

However he pointed out the series has had its detractors since its inception and was adamant that the open wheelers will be there on the grid come October.

"A1GP is coming to Surfers whether you like it or not," he said.

"Against all the odds, A1 is fighting the battle and is going to be there."

He said the series "is moving forward with some fairly expensive backing" and that he has complete faith in Teixeira. Big Pond

09/22/09 (GMM) Ferrari has declined to comment on reports the Italian marque has withdrawn its supply of engines to the A1GP series.

The self-styled World Cup of Motorsport is believed to be in financial difficulty, but a nine-round calendar beginning in Australia next month has been published.

Pre-season testing, however, has been delayed until mere days before the start of the series, although organizers insist the championship is on track, now with the support of industry giants IMG.

A1GP, whose Dutch team is being sold by tax authorities, also declined to comment on the reports about the dispute with Ferrari.

It is believed the Ferrari-made cars have been locked away by a UK freight company due to a nearly $2m unpaid bill.

It is also rumored that the Australian V8 Supercar category has been put on standby to pick up the pieces for local organizers should the A1 series fold before the Surfers Paradise opener.

"I must stress I am not one for speculating," V8 Supercar chief Tony Cochrane told goldcoast.com.au.

"As of right now nothing has really changed as far as I'm concerned. We already have stepped up and are taking a bigger part," he added.

09/21/09 Assuming the series doesn't tank (the financial model simply is not sustainable), AR1.com sources report that the last A1GP round of next season's program won't be at Zandvoort, but at Assen, and there will not be a New Zealand A1GP race.

09/21/09 This rumor may be 'false' – see related news item.

09/21/09 With the operations portion of A1GP in bankruptcy the future of the A1GP series has been thrown into further doubt, with Autosport reporting that sources suggest Ferrari has withdrawn its supply of engines for the championship just ahead of the first race at Surfers Paradise in Australia on October 25.

Should the race get cancelled the organizers will further regret not coming to terms with the IRL to continue the 'Indy' race.

Now there are suggestions that its plans have suffered a major blow, with Ferrari stopping its supply of power units to the championship, it is assumed for failure to pay for last years engines, but that is not confirmed.

Ferrari would not confirm the situation when contacted by AUTOSPORT, however. A spokesman for the company said: "We have no comment to make on this matter at the moment."

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