False start for A1GP. (LAT photo)
A1GP has called off its planned opening rounds in Surfers Paradise but series boss Tony Teixeira insists the championship is not dead.
Next weekend's Australian races had long been in doubt given the uncertainty over the championship's future during the summer, and today A1GP confirmed that it would definitely not make it to Surfers.
"I want to personally apologize to the people affected by this regrettable but unavoidable decision," said Teixeira. "The Queensland Government, Gold Coast Motor Events Co, the management and chairman of the event have been patient and supportive of us in the past weeks.
"We were proud to be part of what has become one of the world's most iconic motorsport events, and are devastated at the decision we have had to make. We also know the Australian motorsport fans are very protective of this event and had welcomed us with open arms. To them I also apologize and stress that we wanted to put on a show for them that they would never forget."
A1GP has pledged to pay back the sanction fee to the event organizers, to reimburse contractors who have already incurred expenses preparing for the races, and to donate $50,000 to Surfers' chosen charity.
Replacing the IndyCar Series -- which could not agree on a date with the Surfers authorities -- at the famous Australian street race was a massive coup for A1GP. The Surfers meeting will still go ahead with the V8 Supercar championship now the sole headline category. The Australian series will contest four 150km races over the weekend rather than the two 200km races originally scheduled.
The long-standing rumors about A1GP's future and financial health had reached fever pitch following the 2008/2009 season. A1GP Operations Ltd, the championship's operating arm, went into liquidation, and there were suggestions that Ferrari wanted the championship to return its engines in a row over payment.
The A1GP cars themselves were held by freight company Delivered on Time (DOT) throughout the summer as it too sought payment, but A1GP announced last month that it had secured a new financial package that would guarantee its future and resolve all outstanding issues. A statement from the series said that the effect of the off-season problems meant it was impossible to prepare the cars in time.
"The series found itself in a race against time to make the deadline for when its cars would have to leave the UK to be on track in Surfers Paradise next Thursday," said the statement. "The series organizers never doubted this was possible, but today have been forced to accept this now cannot happen.
"One effect of the UK operating arm of the series going into liquidation in June was that access to the cars and the ability to pay its suppliers has been impeded. What should have been a summer upgrading the machinery in time for the first race of the 2009/10 season has turned into a frustrating time for achieving this."
Teixeira remains adamant that the cancellation of Surfers does not mean the end of A1GP. He insists that the 19 teams listed as 2009/2010 entrants last week are still behind the championship, which was scheduled to race at Zhuhai in China three weeks after Surfers.
"We have recently announced 19 teams who were ready to race in Australia," said Teixeira. "I know they are still committed to racing in our unique series that pits nation versus nation.
"A1GP may be down, but I do not accept we are out. We have had four exciting seasons that have proved we are a force in the sport and now we shall consolidate on what we have achieved to date. My efforts will be on finding a way forward with the support of some very loyal people."