Australia's own Ryan Briscoe won the last Indy car race at Surfers. (LAT photo)
A return to Australia's Gold Coast by the IndyCar Series has not been ruled out by the Indy Racing League, according to a series spokesman, but serious the scheduling and financial hurdles that caused the longtime Indy car street race to be dropped from the schedule this year remain.
The race has traditionally featured a mix of Indy cars and touring cars, first in association with CART/Champ Car and then, following Champ Car's merger with the Indy Racing League last year, as a non-championship IRL event. When the league was unable to reach agreement with Surfers officials on a new contract for this year, the IndyCars were replaced by A1 Grand Prix, but that series' ongoing financial problems forced it to cancel its planned season debut on the Gold Coast streets this weekend. Instead, the 2009 SuperGP will feature touring cars as the sole headliner. IRL vp of public relations John Griffin says the IndyCar Series would still like to return to Surfers Paradise, but only on terms that make sense for a U.S.-based championship.
"What we're looking for is a sanction fee that is going to cover our expenses to travel to and from the event, to allow our equipment to travel to and from the event and to allow our teams to each bring somewhere in the vicinity of 20 support staff," Griffin told Australia's Gold Coast Bulletin. Griffin indicated that it would take around $20 million for an IndyCar return to be viable, whereas North American-based races can be run for between $3m-$5m.
In addition to the financial requirements, though, Surfers Paradise SuperGP organizers and the IRL remain divided over scheduling, with the league insisting on a date early in the season and Surfers determined to keep its October date.
"The [October] scheduling does not make sense," Griffin told the Bulletin. "We're looking to end our schedule in the United States."
The Surfers Paradise CART Indy car race was run in Australia's autumn (springtime in the U.S.) from 1991-'97, but has been run in October ever since.