Green Prix or A1GP prepared to replace IndyCar in Surfers

UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that A1GP will replace the IndyCar Series in Surfers Paradise. The IRL will instead focus on events like the Newton race in the cornfields of Iowa. Ask international giants like Audi, Porsche and Maserati, all rumored to be eyeing an IndyCar involvement, where they would prefer to race. As with the Versus TV decision, it appears the IRL is content on a no-growth model.

Former Formula One motor racing world champ Alan Jones is a happy man today, having pushed for the A1 Grand Prix to come Down Under to the Gold Coast to fill any potential void left by IndyCars.

"We want to get it here on the Gold Coast, we make no bones about it. It's a fantastic part of the world to be racing in," Jones told The Bulletin in the lead-up to Indy this year when doubts were growing that the Indy Racing League would stick with the Surfers Paradise race.

Premier Anna Bligh revealed that negotiations with the Indy Racing League had broken down due to insurmountable hurdles over funding and dates.

Gold Coast resident Jones has energetically pushed his open-wheel A1 Grand Prix racing version as an alternative to Indy, unashamedly branding it a better proposition than Indy with a wider global audience at less cost.

10/28/08 "The Government is committed financially, the V8s have committed, so it's two thirds of the pie … racing will continue here right through until 2013 and it will still remain the most iconic event in Australia," said Gold Coast Indy general manager Greg Hooton.

It was a view backed up yesterday by Sports Minister Judy Spence, who said the festival would go ahead next year with or without the IRL.

"We've signed up with the V8 Supercars for the next five years," she said. "We are still talking with the IRL people, but if we can't do that deal in the next 14 days we have other leagues interested in coming to Queensland and racing."

With an answer still almost two weeks away, it would leave Mr. Hooton only 11 months to slot another racing series in its place — which did not faze him.

"From our perspective the ability to make some changes is there and we will still have a great event," he said.

With its Ferrari designed car and engine A1GP is a more sophisticated and international series that is a better fit for a major international event like Surfers than the IRL, which prefers to race in obscurity in places like Newton, Iowa

Former Formula 1 world champion Alan Jones yesterday repeated his call for his A1GP series to take over where the IndyCars leave off.

"What I have to stress upon people is that we aren't an alternative, we're actually an improvement," said Mr. Jones, who told The Bulletin earlier this year of his desire to see the A1GP at Surfers.

The Bulletin understands A1GP powerbrokers and the State Government have already discussed the option of fitting into the preferred late October date.

One Government official revealed on Saturday that a European series had 'chased' the Government to take the place of the IndyCars should the negotiations fail, but declined to confirm if it was the A1GP.

Mr. Jones laughed off suggestions the GP2 or Formula 3 race series could take the IndyCars' place.

"Nobody here even knows what GP2 is and as for F3, they're like starter motors for our cars," he said.

The 1980 F1 world champion, Mr. Jones said if the Surfers event was about gaining exposure for the Gold Coast, his A1GP was a far better option.

The A1GP had 25 national teams competing and was broadcast to 155 countries, with Monaco and Korea signing up recently.

10/26/08 Rival open-wheel series are lining up to come to the Gold Coast to fill any breach left by IndyCars after this year.

A State Government source indicated on Saturday that alternative series have been 'chasing' state authorities and race organizers to come to the Gold Coast if the Indy Racing League decided not to return after 2008.

The insider said that the enthusiasm of the rival open-wheel series was partly the reason the Government had remained firm on its late October date for Indy at Surfers Paradise.

However, Sports Minister Judy Spence declined to provide any detail of which cars could be coursing the streets of Surfers beyond 2008.

"I won't talk about alternatives," said Ms Spence. "We have agreed to make a decision in the next 14 days. It's been a good weekend. The IRL team have come to every event and spent hours and hours talking to us and we understand each other's positions very well."

Ms Spence also declined to speculate on whether an alternative motorsport series could be slipped into the locally preferred October date before next year's scheduled event. But any candidate would have to be an open-wheel series.

"(Indy) will definitely have to be an open-wheel and a V8 event," said Ms Spence.

"We think people want to come here and see something different, and open-wheel cars are something just that."

A possible scenario could be that the Surfers Paradise race become one leg of a Formula 3 series in Asia or the high-profile GP2 outfit, according to a leading V8 racing figure.

Roland Dane, who owns the 888 Team Vodafone V8 racing team, said if the requirement for the Gold Coast event was an open-wheel, single-seat category, there were two likely contenders.

Mr. Dane said the GP2 Asia, a feeder series for Formula One, would be one that could fit nicely into the Surfers model.

"It supports all the European rounds of Formula One, then during the off-season runs a series in Asia and the Middle East," said Mr. Dane.

It also served as one of the most significant stepping stones for drivers into Formula One, he said.

Alternatively, Surfers could become the first leg of a Formula 3 double-header with the Macau Grand Prix.

Mr. Dane said Macau's Formula 3 Grand Prix took place in November, which could dovetail nicely with Surfers' preferred late October slot.

And the Macau event had cemented itself into the racing calendar and had attracted its fair share of big names over the years. Ayrton Senna was its inaugural winner, while other winners included Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher.

"I think it would be really interesting to try a double-header with Macau," he said. "It would also showcase some of the (future) faces of Formula One."

Mr. Dane played down a suggestion that the American Le Mans Series — a US-based sports car racing series created by US pharmaceutical magnate Don Panoz, who lives part of the year on the Gold Coast, could offer an alternative.

Sunday's attendance of 94,465 was down 7850 (7.6 per cent) on last year, making an overall drop of about 16,800 or 5.3 per cent. Total attendance over the four days was 297,288.

10/25/08 Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth repeated his line that negotiations would continue and that no announcement would be made for two weeks.

But he had some good news at the Conrad Jupiters Indy Gala ball last night, announcing that the V8 Supercars had signed to race on the Gold Coast next year.

"We'll have negotiations this weekend with the IRL and have had talks with Tony George today and we'll have more talks," he said earlier.

Despite denying on Thursday that he had sought the interest of rival open-wheel series, Mr. Mackenroth hinted yesterday that if the IRL did not return next year, another open-wheel series could be slipped into the program to retain its international component.

2008 may well be the one and only appearance of the IndyCars in Surfers Paradise, replaced by the Ferrari A1GP cars below

"People don't seem to realize that this is the fourth different series we have had here in 18 years … " he said.

10/22/08 Rumor has it that the Champ Car could be back in Surfers Paradise starting in 2009 if the IRL decides to drop the race because they refuse to bring their series to Australia after their regular season ends in early October.

If the Green Prix USA series gets off the ground as planned next spring using the Panoz DP01 and Reynard Champ Cars with Cosworth turbo power, then it is quite possible the Surfers promoters could have an alternative to IndyCars.

We also hear that the A1GP series would like nothing better than to take over for IndyCar and bring their Ferrari powered race cars to the beautiful streets of Surfers Paradise.