A1GP series cancels Australia season opener

UPDATE #2 On the eve of the Gold Coast's Nikon SuperGP last night motor-racing heavyweight Tony Cochrane took the opportunity to let the A1 organizers know what he really thought of them.

The V8 Supercar boss was not afraid to show his disdain for A1GP, saying it was the V8 Supercars that had done the Australian thing and stepped up to the plate.

"They (A1 organizers) let the fans down, they let the people of Queensland down and they can go off wherever they want now," he said.

"We've done the great Australian thing to do and when someone is in trouble you jump in.

"I have told Terry (Mackenroth) more times than either of us care to remember that people come here for the V8s.

"I've always believed we could take it on … but we would have liked a bit more notice."

Mr. Cochrane then went on to hit out at skeptics who predicted thousands of tickets would be refunded since the announcement the A1 cars had pulled out.

He said only 93 had been refunded and there had been strong ticket sales since.

"We love a fair dinkum challenge and I have a huge belief in standing up to injustices," said Mr. Cochrane.

"It's very disappointing everyone is jumping on the minister. He called me on Thursday and has been working overtime for 48 hours to make this happen.

"A lot of people have found the tree and bought the rope and are dead keen to hang somebody.

"But this weekend is going to be great."

Outgoing SuperGP boss Terry Mackenroth also spoke at the welcome and said he had washed his hand of the whole debacle.

"I think we should put it behind us for the moment," he said.

"There will be plenty of time for navel-gazing but it's not my problem because I've resigned.

"I would like to thank the board of the V8 Supercars for stepping up to the plate.

"Tony Cochrane has told me for years that people only come here to watch the V8s and at the end of the weekend we'll know who is right."

The pair was speaking at the official welcome for the SuperGP held at Conrad Jupiter’s.

The Premier Anna Bligh usually speaks at the event but pulled out weeks ago. She was yesterday in Rockhampton where bushfires have been threatening homes.

The welcome was attended by politicians, councillors and of course, V8 drivers who were all looking forward to the event.

"It's exciting and a great opportunity to showcase what we're about," said V8 driver Craig Lowndes.

"It's tough on us, it's three quarters of the race we've just done in Bathurst but it's going to be terrific."
10/17/09 Please see below for an official media statement from the Gold Coast Motor Events Company followed by official statements from the Queensland Government, A1GP World Cup of Motorsport and A1GP Australia

The Gold Coast Motor Events Company (GCMEC), after pursuing A1GP World Cup of Motorsport for some time regards final confirmation, have as of 9.00am this morning terminated the agreement between the Nikon SuperGP and the A1GP series, due to A1GP’s failure to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Nikon SuperGP General Manager Greg Hooton said that whilst it was obviously disappointing that GCMEC has had to terminate the contract, plans have been put in place to ensure a full, new-look, program for when the 2009 Nikon SuperGP commences on Thursday October 22.

“GCMEC and the Minister have worked with V8 Supercars, to develop the new race program which will now be rolled out at the event," said Hooton.

“This program comprises of four 150km V8 Supercar races, two over each day of the weekend, seeing an unprecedented amount of V8 Supercar racing on the streets of Surfers Paradise.

“Amounting to 600km of racing, this will see the Nikon SuperGP only eclipsed by the Bathurst 1000 when it comes to the amount of racing that will be on offer for spectators at any one event.

“Everyone here is truly excited and believes this is a great result, and one which is sure to entertain motorsport fans from all around the country.

“While a new look program is in place, we recognize that some of those who have pre-purchased their tickets may now want to reconsider their attendance to the event.

“As a gesture of goodwill, GCMEC will provide a refund to those people who have already purchased a ticket to the event, should they choose not to attend the Nikon SuperGP this week.

“If those people who have already purchased a ticket do attend the event, no refund or partial refunds will be given. Details on how to obtain a refund will be available on Monday through the Ticketek website.

“In closing, I would like to state that with the new plan now in place, the 2009 Nikon SuperGP is on-track to entertain the crowds over October 22-25.

“More news on extra entertainment and other exciting developments for the 2009 race program will be made over the coming days."

10/17/09 Founded on a business plan that had no hope of succeeding, the A1GP series has cancelled its Surfers Paradise season opener, which had been scheduled to take place in Australia next weekend.

"I want to personally apologize to the people affected by this regrettable but unavoidable decision," said the financially embattled series' boss Tony Teixeira.

The race organizers, insisting they have been "badly let down by A1GP", will push ahead with the weekend with the domestic V8 Supercar series.

A1GP's problem relates to unpaid bills, including to the car and engine supplier Ferrari, but Teixeira vowed to re-pay the Surfers organizers' sanctioning fee and donate $50,000 to a charity of their choice.

He insisted the news does not mean A1's World Cup of Motorsport concept, launched in 2005, is now doomed.

"A1GP may be down, but I do not accept we are out," said Teixeira. The next round in the now 8-round 2009/2010 calendar is scheduled to take place in China next month.

Through the years A1GP has cancelled umpteen races yet Surfers organizers had the audacity to replace the IndyCars with A1GP. They are paying dearly now for that shortsightedness.

Today's announcement is a major embarrassment for Mr. Hooton and Mr. Mackenroth who oversaw the deal with failed sponsor Nitro and now failed open-wheelers A1GP.

And government minister Judy Spence is not out of the woods either.

The former Sport Minister was holding the reins when she announced she had secured the Indy Racing League for a future contract when she clearly hadn't. Then she, with Mr. Mackenroth, secured the fatally flawed deal with A1GP.

The debacle has caused widespread unrest about next week's Gold Coast race and impacted ticket sales, corporate bookings and the reputation of the event.

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