Rumors of a rift between race promoter Normand Legault and Champ Car began Friday when fans, media and drivers arrived to find so few grandstand seats. During the weekend, a number of teams quietly complained that the organizers didn't make them feel welcome in Montreal.
"It is a real shame," said Sébastien Bourdais, a driver for the Newman/Haas team and the leader in the drivers' standing. "I think it will be hard for the fans to see the race. There's not a lot of co-operation from the promoter."
Three-day attendance at the Montreal Molson Indy:
08/28/05 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false.' AutoRacing1.com spotted the NASCAR folks chatting with Champ Car President Dick Eidswick in the Champ Car Business Unit today in Montreal, so we quizzed him about what is really going on here in Montreal given there are rumors out in Sonoma that the IRL is eyeing Montreal. "The IRL isn't coming here unless the F1 race is going away" (which it isn't), said Eidswick. "I heard all those rumors before I came here this weekend but now I am confident of our long-term future here. We have a solid contract to race here next year and I am very confident we will extend it for many years after that."
AutoRacing1.com reported back in Edmonton that Molson, the sponsor of two Champ Car races in Canada, was behind trying to bring the Busch Series to Canada, with Calgary being one possibility. The Toronto Sun reports that Molson is behind trying to get NASCAR in Montreal and given Champ Car was meeting with NASCAR today what appears to be coming together is a Champ Car/NASCAR Busch Series doubleheader, we would assume starting in 2007, perhaps even next year. Speculation on our part, but that appears to be what is in play from where we sit. Mark C.
08/27/05 Seen in Montreal – Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR director of administration and four others. What are they doing here if Legault isn't bringing NASCAR to Montreal? Perhaps they love watching Champ Car so much they decided to come to Montreal rather than be in Bristol this weekend where NASCAR Busch and Cup are racing. 08/27/05 Rumors of a NASCAR race in Montreal in 2007 also began to swirl after many noticed the lack of grandstands for the race and began to speculate that the promoters were preparing to abandon the event. The contract for the Champ Car event in Montreal expires after next year's race.
There is only one grandstand left on the start-finish line while others have also disappeared around the course. Estimates peg the seating capacity at about 25,000.
But event spokesman Normand Prieur insisted the smaller grandstands are part of the plan to pass savings in promoter costs to fans and bring people to the racetrack. "We built the grandstands that we felt were necessary and we will fill them for the race [tomorrow]," Prieur said. "It was a good move because we are already ahead of last year." Globe and Mail [Editor's Note: Coming into the circuit this morning at 7:30 AM we observed hordes of fans coming into the track. There will be a lot of people here on Sunday, they just won't be sitting in grandstands.]
The number of grandstands have been cut down at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for this year's Montreal Molson Indy, making the site seem quieter and emptier. Organizers do not provide attendance figures until the end of the three-day event and it was difficult to tell if fewer fans than in the past attended the opening day of qualifying on Friday.
But the lone set of bleachers erected in front the team garages, only half-full for qualifying, made it appear they weren't expecting many.
It has fuelled speculation that organizers, whose contract for the race expires after the 2006 race, are looking to dump Champ Cars to try to get a NASCAR event.
Driver Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., doesn't think so. "This year, they tried to reduce the cost," he said. "And there's so many places (to watch from), the spectators know they can get a general admission ticket and watch from the hairpin. They're expecting around 150,000 people and they can do it in different ways. There's place to sit on the grass. They're trying to get the same amount of people in different ways."
Huge grandstands are set up each year for the Canadian Grand Prix Formula One race, which draws more than 300,000 spectators over three days. Canadian Press
08/26/05 It turns out the missing grandstands are on Ile St-HélÃ¨ne (Notre-Dame's sister Island) for the World aquatics held in Montreal 2 weeks ago.. Weird thing, Legault was also the promoter.. He moved them there after the Canadian Grand-Prix for the event and you clearly see them exiting the metro on the Island and he didn't bother bringing 'em back. 08/26/05 We spoke to Chris Kneifel of Champ Car about the reduced grandstands and he agreed that the number is definitely down but what he was told by the promoter was they have set up a lot of family areas all around the track and even a concert stage. The goal is to attract a lot of families with lower priced General Admission tickets and lots of entertainment. Of course the promoter saves money by erecting less grandstands. There appears to be a fairly sizeable crowd here today (Friday). Some also doubt whether NASCAR can race on this track due to space limitations. 08/26/05 Walking into Montreal this morning and seeing the tiny grandstand across from the pit lane and the single grandstand in the Senna Curves where once there was three, and less grandstands in the hairpin, it is clear the future of this Champ Car event has to be in doubt. We predict it is a lack of promotion by the promoter to kill the event and make room for NASCAR.