2007 could be year Edmonton race makes money

The Champ Car Grand Prix of Edmonton was a first-year phenomenon followed by a second-season sensation.

But as fans ready for a third edition, there is the question.

Will continued successes follow?

So far, it's been a good time. Now, the challenge is to make it a long time.

This, understand, is an event which hasn't turned a profit yet. Hasn't made a dime.

It had huge start-up costs and, as a result, has lost upwards of $5 million.

"No one can write checks to subsidize anything long term," said Jim Haskins, the former TV executive who became president and general manager of the event.

"We have to build on our success to be here long-term. This is, by far, the premier auto racing event in Western Canada and the most successful Champ Car event in Canada, but it has to be self-supportive.

"Nobody in our investment group has done this to make huge amounts of money. It's like the old saying that the quickest way make a million in auto racing is to start with 10. Our goal this year is to break even for the first time."

I think that's a realistic goal.

The fan support has been terrific. The community and government support has been relatively solid. But the corporate support has been lacking. Even with the recently announced new Rexall title sponsorship, it barely brings the corporate dollars past half of what is required.

And who knows how many years the multi-year Rexall deal is for as it doesn't appear on the surface to be secured past two seasons? But that's still one more than the quick-hit, last-minute title sponsor deals for the first two races.

"We're optimistic that the 2007 race will continue to build on the momentum," said Haskins. "We've been tracking where we want to be.

"We listen to our fan base. We've had focus group analysis with people who have attended and people who didn't attend to find out why they didn't."

So far, it's been ballistic.

Right out of the box, it was the amazing race in the amazing place.

Or as legendary movie star Paul Newman put it after Newman-Haas driver Sebastian Bourdais won it in a four-car finish that you could have thrown a Canadian flag over, "It couldn't have been better for the 90,000 people who came here. They got a real show."

The top four were separated by 1.6 seconds as they took the checkered flag.

It was the best race before the biggest crowds of the season in the series and the largest crowd to witness a Champ Car Series race and weekend in Canada.

Ever. More at Calgary Sun

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