IndyCar could make its long-hoped-for return to Surfers Paradise – possibly as early as next year – if an already approved Gold Coast-based consortium can successfully negotiate an agreement for a race, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported.
“There are ongoing commercial negotiations with the [Queensland Government],” a spokesperson for the consortium told the Bulletin. “We are talking to [Tourism and Events Queensland] and the US-based IndyCars.”
The goal is to bring the Verizon IndyCar Series in during an annual weeklong motorsports event. News of the effort comes as the Supercars Championship announced a deal to remain at Surfers Paradise through 2019.
“We want to lift the image, we want to bring the high heels, a sophistication to the city to leverage off the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
INDYCAR would not comment on specifics.
“INDYCAR is in the process of investigating potential venues for the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, which includes a number of conversations with international parties interested in hosting an event,” INDYCAR said in a statement. “INDYCAR has an extended history at Surfers Paradise and many of its teams and drivers fondly recall the great events and large crowds in Australia. However, at this time, we are not going to comment on specifics as it pertains to the status of any prospective venue.”
Approval from Supercars will be needed in order to pull off a weeklong event, the consortium spokesperson said.
“All our concern at the moment is on securing the approval through government to hold the event with IndyCars as the major attraction — 2017 is a possibility, 2018 is more than possible,” he said.
The Gold Coast 300 ran at Surfers Paradise from 1991-2008, with Sydney native Ryan Briscoe winning the last race (a non-points race after the CART/IRL merger) for Team Penske. The Bulletin reports the average annual attendance of 252,000 brought in an estimated $761 million (about $565 million U.S.).
A number of issues would need to be resolved, namely that the Gold Coast event’s traditional late-October date is more than one month after the last race on the 2016 IndyCar calendar.
Similarly, Supercars now races on a slashed 1.85-mile version of the circuit, down from 2.79 miles, to accommodate a new tram line over what was the southern end of the Champ Car layout.
With recent attempts at non-North American events in Brazil, China and Dubai not coming to fruition, Roger Penske said in March that flyaways don’t benefit the series, which is trying to grow its fan base, or its sponsors, most of which are based in the U.S.
“I would like to have 15 or 16 good races,” he said. “I don’t want to have 18, 19 or 20. I’m not interested in going overseas. I think if we run our series over here we’ll be a lot better off. Our sponsors – 95 percent of them – are U.S. domestic companies.
“If we are going to give them the benefit, notoriety and the business-to-business relationships we have to have to maintain these sponsors as we do, it’s hard to do it in Abu Dhabi and places like that.”
Autosport.com contributed to this report.