Champ Car or IRL in San Antonio?

UPDATE #8 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. HollyHills Motor Sports and Champ Car had been working to bring a World Series grand prix auto race to downtown San Antonio beginning next summer. But Champ Car officials have lowered the red flag on that plan, say HollyHills officials, who are now moving to secure a 2008 race.

09/01/06 See related rumor.

07/11/06 Responding to requests from several groups interested in putting on a Grand Prix race in San Antonio next year, the city has begun a process to determine whether any of them have the ability to put on such an event, an official said Monday.

By issuing what is known as a Request for Qualification, the city began a bureaucratic process that will determine whether a race could be held and whether the groups have the capability to produce it, said Tonya Drake, special projects manager in the office of City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

"This is a first step … in the process," Drake said. "They have the desire to put on a Grand Prix, and they contacted us. We didn't go to them."

Earlier Monday, HollyHills Motor Sports LLC of San Antonio said it had signed an agreement with Champ Car Racing, which it identified as the "worldwide authority in the staging of street races on temporary circuits" such as San Antonio streets.

The local group said it would work with Champ Car Racing to land a race that it hoped to schedule for late next summer. San Antonio Express News [Editor's Note: Late summer, would mean September. Champ Car had better make it at the very end of September, or even October, and not give it Montreal's date in late August, because the summer heat in Texas will kill the spectator turnout.]

07/11/06 HollyHills Motor Sports LLC says it has signed a multi-year agreement with Champ Car Racing that could lead to San Antonio hosting a downtown grand prix street race series beginning as soon as next summer.

HollyHills officials say the company, in cooperation with Champ Car, has responded to the City of San Antonio's request for qualifications (RFQ) process. That RFQ process is expected to determine which entity is qualified to begin negotiations with the city on the potential staging of a grand prix race here.

San Antonio hosted a series of grand prix races along the streets surrounding HemisFair Park in the late 1980s. In 2005, local developer and HollyHills Development Chairman Daniel Bailey began discussions with both the Indy Racing League and Champ Car in hopes of bringing similar races back to San Antonio as soon as 2007.

"What started as a vision nearly two years ago is now becoming a reality," Bailey says. "With the agreement between Champ Car Racing and HollyHills Motor Sports, San Antonio has taken a major step forward in bringing a grand prix race here in 2007."

HollyHills officials say Champ Car is a worldwide authority in the staging of street races on temporary circuits like the one proposed in San Antonio.

"Champ Car looks forward to bringing the world-class Grand Prix back to San Antonio in 2007," says Champ Car President and CEO Steve Johnson. "Few cities in America can boast being a Fiesta-focused city like San Antonio. And that is what a Champ Car World Series event is, a week-long Fiesta."

A number of hurdles remain before racers will roar around some of San Antonio's downtown landmarks.

First, the city will have to select a group from its RFQ. Then it will have to negotiate a deal with that group and the sanctioning body before a San Antonio date could be added to any series schedule. San Antonio Business Journal [Editor's Note: Chris Pook, and not Joe Heitzler, is now behind this deal.]

06/03/06 has confirmed that Champ Car has indeed signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Holly Hills to hold a Champ Car race in San Antonio. Meanwhile we hear that the IRL has gone back to the City with Andretti Green promotions with the hope of winning the agreement with the City. And last, we hear that Joe Heitzler, who was pushed out of the Holly Hills deal, may come back with another entity as a third bidder. So in essence the City of San Antonio went from maybe having one promoter interested in putting on a race, to now as many as three bidders. With three bidding it is quite likely that whoever wins the bid, will have a difficult time making a profit. Everyday that the split in open wheel continues, is another day each tries to beat the other. The end results is that the sport is run further into the ground.

06/01/06 A local promoter signed a deal with the Champ Car racing league on Wednesday, bringing San Antonio one step closer getting Grand Prix racing to town. But they say the City of San Antonio could kill their deal.

Local developer, Holly Hills says they plan to cut a $2 million check to bring in Champ Car, one of three Indy racing leagues.

“We're ready to go today. We're ready to put together everything to make the race happen in 2007," said TJ Connolly, spokesperson for Holly Hills.

With the race, they promise to bring in $50 million in revenue for the city.

Assistant to the City Manager Roland Lozano is throwing up a caution flag. He says the city has to open up racing to other companies so the city can pick the best offer. That process could push the Grand Prix back to 2008.

Holly Hills says it’s willing to compete with other companies to promote the race. But they told News 4 WOAI if they have to wait until 2008, they'll pull out altogether. They also say no one else can compete with them.

City Councilman Kevin Wolff says he was never informed the city was opening the race up to other companies and is now worried our chances may now be in jeopardy.

Both County Judge Nelson Wolff and Councilman Chip Haass also expressed concerns about pushing the potential Grand Prix race back.

The city manager is considering opening up new race offers only if they can put the race on next year.

05/13/06 John Lewis, the Indy Racing League's vice president of development, went to San Antonio on Thursday to again meet with city officials regarding a street race for next season. The question is whether the IRL and Champ Car are working against each other or with each other on this event. We think secretly it must be the latter, or the idea of a merger goes out the window.

05/12/06 spoke to Champ Car President Steve Johnson about San Antonio. "I met with the City and went over our business model with them. They like our model and our approach. We are looking at racing right around the Alamo, but the promoter (not Joe Heitzler's Holly Hills) has some challenges to overcome, nothing insurmountable though. We think having two races in Texas would work well for us."

05/10/06 A local company says it's just days away from putting the wheels in motion to bring Indy car racing to San Antonio. But another racing league says it wants to put the pedal to the metal here, too.

The Indy Racing League, or IRL, continues working on its proposal to bring the Grand Prix to San Antonio. However, a company called Champ Car is close to bringing a deal to local developer, HollyHills, who will pick up the tab for most of the race-related expenses.

The president of Champ Car toured the proposed race layout around the Alamodome with City Councilman Kevin Wolff on Friday. Both Champ Car and IRL hold auto races on street tracks and bring out more than a million spectators every year.

Whichever deal HollyHills chooses, there would still be a cost to the city. Taxpayer dollars would pay for security, clean up, and even repairing the streets used for a race. That's why Wolff wants the details of the agreement laid out soon. He says city staffers need to get busy determining if San Antonio can make this work and still turn a profit.

HollyHills says television advertising is a big selling point. Whichever racing league offers more free TV spots for San Antonio during its races in other cities may clinch the deal. WOAI

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