Cochrane wants full control of Surfers race

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10/23/09 This weekend's SuperGP crowds will be the litmus test of the V8 Supercars' pulling power as Premier Anna Bligh yesterday flagged the Gold Coast's premier motor sport event was likely to undergo a drastic overhaul for next year.

A review into the handling of the SuperGP could result in IMG being sacked as event organizers, and the V8s taking over top billing, or another international race signed to replace A1GP.

Yesterday's crowds were down on last year, with 48,284 turning out compared with the 63,124 at last year's Friday session, but all indicators are that the weekend crowds will come out in force.

Ms Bligh arrived in pit lane yesterday afternoon, promising a 'comprehensive and rigorous' review into the A1 debacle and laying down the challenge to the V8 Supercars to prove they were worthy of headlining the event from next year.

"I'm disappointed about the circumstances leading up to this event," she said.

"We'll be looking at everything from the lead-up to the event, looking at the performance of the event over this weekend … I'm not going to pre-empt the outcomes of the review."

V8 Supercars boss Tony Cochrane has declared his series would provide the draw card and stability the Gold Coast needed.

He pleaded with the Premier to allow the series to headline the SuperGP in future years.

"I think its only fair to see what happens this weekend. I am very confident and we are happy to be judged on that."

While Ms Bligh said interest in the SuperGP had soared since the V8s stepped up to the plate, she was reluctant to say if the State Government would support a V8 Supercar-headlining event on the Gold Coast in future years.

"Let's have a look at what happens this weekend," she said.

Sports Minister Phil Reeves accompanied Ms Bligh on her pit lane walk to meet all the V8 drivers, along with Mr. Cochrane, SuperGP boss Greg Hooton, Gold Coast Motor Events Corporation chairman Terry Mackenroth and Gold Coast MPs Peter Lawlor, Peta-Kaye Croft and Margaret Keech.

Mr. Reeves said A1GP had already been served a letter of demand by GCMEC, which terminated the five-year contract with the embattled series and reserved its right to seek compensation for damage caused by the A1's 11th-hour no-show.

SuperGP boss Greg Hooton was — up until this week — the go-to man for all things SuperGP but he has now taken a back seat.

Late yesterday he released a statement on crowd figures, saying he expected the weekend to boom and that his team was 'working around the clock' to attract more people to the race.

"Given the uncertainty of the event, people did not have a great amount of time to sort a four or five-day holiday on the Gold Coast but the weekend is do-able," he said.

10/22/09 V8 SUPERCARS boss Tony Cochrane has urged the Queensland Government to hand control of the Surfers Paradise event over to his organization in a bid to secure the long-term stability of the iconic race.

Currently overseen by government-owned Queensland Events and IMG, the Gold Coast motorsport carnival was on the brink of collapse this year before V8 Supercars stepped up to rescue the event after the A1GP debacle.

Cochrane yesterday said V8 Supercars were more than ready to take the reins moving forward.

"Of the 14 rounds of the championship, we run six ourselves, including Bathurst," he said yesterday. "We are egomaniacs for control and we don't have much control this week. That is the one part of the puzzle I am struggling to cope with, to be honest.

"In all honesty, of course we would love to have it (complete control over the event).

"We are a very stable organization that does deliver what we promise.

"If we got the opportunity, we would deliver on what we promised and it would turn into a very successful and stable event going forward for many years to come.

"This event has 19 years of history. It has been through some tough times and it has been through some great times.

"I believe it has got a fantastic future on the Gold Coast."

The Queensland Government pours $11.6 million of funding into the Gold Coast event but Cochrane believes his organization could stage an almost identical carnival with the V8 Supercars as the headline act for around $3 million.

"If you take the international component out of it, it proves what you can run this event for," he said.

"You are paying an awful lot for that international component.

"If it is not working for you, then perhaps what should be questioned is do you need the international component?"

Cochrane expressed disbelief that the SuperGP was allowed to disintegrate into such a farce, with the A1GP cars pulling out a week before the event was supposed to begin.

"I am on the record saying for a long time that I thought A1GP was in huge trouble," he said. After you see that much smoke, only an idiot would come to the conclusion 'ignore all that, it is going great guns'. Their cars have been locked up under a marshal warehouse law since the end of May.

"I can tell you that if I had all our cars locked up for four or five months I would have 1600-odd people in this championship murdering me."

Cochrane was supremely confident the Gold Coast race could continue to go from strength to strength under V8 rule.

"We have been through this before," he said. "When Formula 1 left Adelaide, in that city they went through a huge period for a year or two where they just couldn't believe they had lost it.

"They couldn't believe it could ever be replaced and thought that was the end of a motorsport street race in that city. The truth is we talked them into doing the very first of our V8 Supercars street races back 11 years ago.

"In the first year we had about 160,000 people there and had tremendous success.

"This year in March we had nearly 280,000 people there.

"It has just grown over the 11 years into a fantastic event and it is now the No.1, the biggest event annually, in the state of South Australia by a country mile.

"There is a good illustration of where I think V8 Supercars has stepped into the role, has done a great job and really built the business."

While the open-wheel cars have added a touch of overseas glamour to the Coast event over the past two decades, Cochrane argues it is the V8s that have been the backbone.

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