Warburton: $40m needed for GC IndyCar return

Thursday 30th June, 2016 - 2:24pm

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IndyCar action on the Gold Coast in 2008

IndyCar action on the Gold Coast in 2008

CEO James Warburton says Supercars would happily welcome IndyCar back to the Gold Coast, but has cast strong doubts over the financial viability of such a move.

Today’s news that a private consortium is working to return the American championship to Surfers Paradise coincides with the announcement of a fresh three-year deal between Supercars and the Queensland Government for the Castrol Gold Coast 600 and Townsville 400.

Supercars will remain the promoter under the new agreement, continuing to take the financial risk on the two events that receive a set, undisclosed level of government funding.

While expressing positivity towards seeing IndyCars as part of the event for the first time since 2008, Warburton says that the unnamed consortium would need to take over the promoter’s role in order to carry out its plan.

Supercars has worked particularly hard to improve the financial viability and economic impact of the Gold Coast event in recent years in order to lock in the latest deal with the government.

“We’ve raced with IndyCar, we’re big IndyCar fans and we’d love them to be here,” Warburton told Speedcafe.com at today’s announcement.

“We’ll happily be on the support card, but we wouldn’t promote that event, because we know the numbers.

“Without wanting to be a party pooper… there is no city, promoter or government in the world that can make an (IndyCar) event work.

“The consortium has to work out who’s going to promote the race, who’s going to take the risk and what the funding is.

“It (IndyCar on the Gold Coast) was awesome, I was at most of them, but ultimately there’s a reason that it wasn’t sustainable.

“There’s no races outside North American because it’s an expensive formula.”

Warburton stressed the capital costs of changing the circuit to accomodate the IndyCars.

The venue was shortened from 4.5km to 2.97km in 2010 as part of Supercars’ bid to cut costs and limit the impact on local businesses.

A light rail has since been added on the south side of the circuit, meaning that the old layout cannot be recreated.

“If you think through logistics and the length of the circuit, it’d probably need to be 50 percent more,” Warburton continued.

“There’d need to be longer run-off areas, it’s a complete redesign of the circuit. I don’t think it’d fit here with the light rail.

‘You’re talking about $40 million worth of investment in civil and capital and then you’re talking about funding (to host the IndyCars) that’s five or six times more.”

Confirmation of new three-year deals for the Gold Coast and Townsville Supercars events ended widespread fears that at least one of the two races would be chopped by the government.

Newspaper reports at the weekend alleged that the negotiations had seen Supercars threaten to withdraw from Queensland completely if it did not receive its desired level of funding for the races.

While financial details of the new deal have not been disclosed, Warburton stressed the need for the events to continue to earn their funding through economic benefits to the state.

“There’s a lot of rough and tumble in every negotiation with these races as there has been across many, many years,” he said.

‘The reality is we want to be here and the government wanted to continue with the events.

“Events have to deliver. We have to deliver the return.

“We’re talking about $80 million of economic stimulus and 200,000 room nights (for the Gold Coast 600).

“If we weren’t talking about those types of numbers or if they went backwards we will not be here.

“Nothing is forever. We have to deliver and that’s what we’re doing with the investment we’ve put in.”