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GP Week : Issue 198
F1 >>> nEWs AuSTRAlIA plAyS ThE INDyCAR CARD The man at the head the Australian Grand Prix has floated the idea that he may replace the Formula 1 GP at Albert Park with an IndyCar event. Ron Walker, the Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, has told London’s The Independent newspaper that the switch was one of the options open to him, in light of his disappointment at the sound of the new generation of cars. “We may as well go and buy an IndyCar race for $3.5m. It would be hugely louder,” said Walker, who is also chairman of the Formula One Promoters’ Association. “It would be a drastic change to switch to IndyCar, but we cannot go on like this.” The Victorian state government under writes the cost of the Australian race, which is currently over A$50m ($US$55m). The Gold Coast 300 events, conducted on a street circuit at Surfers Paradise between 1991 and 2008, were similarly under written by the Queensland state government but at a much lower cost, believed to be around US$11m. Walker, seen as a close ally and confidante of Bernie Ecclestone, told Melbourne’s Herald Sun that the sound was “not acceptable’’ and said that the FOPA would meet in Bahrain to discuss formal legal action. “Legal action would not be very difficult,’’ he said. “Bernie [Ecclestone] is clearly in breach of his contract, because this is not what we bought. I didn’t buy a wimp ... I bought a giant with noise. “It’s got to change, this season,’’ he said. “It’s a global concern.” The IndyCar option is an interesting one for the event. At their peak, the Gold Coast 300 rounds of the various US open wheeler championship – CART, Champ Car or IndyCar – drew almost as many spectators as Australia’s F1 race. But the popularity of IndyCar has plummeted over the last decade and its international TV audience nowadays is a fraction of that of F1. Despite wildly exaggerated claims over the tenure of the Melbourne race, estimates of around 40 million viewers are considered accurate for the current event, in spite of its move to a twilight format in 2010 in a bid to grow its European audience. Should IndyCars take over top billing at Albert Park, an option would arise to enhance the status of the event’s key support races. Australia’s extremely popular V8 Supercar Championship changes broadcasters next year, and a switch to an IndyCar event may allow V8 Supercars to upgrade its current non-title races to championship status more easily that it might do alongside F1. Such a move may restore some of the perceived loss of cachet that and F1-to-IndyCar change would generate. Currently IndyCar lacks any international events. Its 2014 calendar features 18 dates, 17 in the USA and one in Toronto, Canada, which break down into 12 rounds on street or road courses and six rounds on ovals. In recent years, it has lost international events in Sao Paulo, Brazil (last held in 2013), Edmonton, Canada (2012), Motegi, Japan (2011), Mexico City (2007), Montreal, Canada (2006), Monterrey, Mexico (2006), Vancouver, Canada (2004) and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2000), as well as Australia. Currently, Australia has one F1 driver, Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo. There are two Australian drivers in IndyCar, Queenslander Will Power with Team Penske and Sydney-born Ryan Briscoe with Ganassi Racing, as well as New Zealander Scott Dixon (also Ganassi). Ironically, somewhat similar to F1, IndyCars feature a turbocharged V6 engine. ThE NOISE DEbATE 9 GPWEEK.com // 9 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: