Three months to decide on Gold Coast Indy return
IndyCar boss Mark Miles believes that a decision could be taken on a return to the Gold Coast within the next three months.
Miles met with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday to discuss the possibility of a comeback for American open-wheel racing on the Gold Coast streets.
Talks are set to continue between the two parties with a view to a return as soon as the Premier’s mooted February 2020 date.
“We hope in the next three months to figure out whether it’s feasible or not and certainly in that time we could make a decision in that timeframe,” Miles, the President/CEO of IndyCar’s parent Hulman & Co., told Speedcafe.com.
“First quarter of 2020 is possible.”
Premier Palaszczuk publicly raised the idea late last month when it was revealed that she had invited IndyCar to visit the Sunshine State for talks, prompting Miles’ flying visit to meet a number of government officials.
“It’s clear that everybody we met from the Premier on, throughout the government, is very interested in the possibility of bringing the IndyCar back to the Gold Coast and speaking for IndyCar, we feel the same way; it’s an exciting possibility,” he said.
“The talks were really beyond meeting each other and expressing our enthusiasm; (they were) really about beginning to talk about the issues that have to be addressed and figuring out how to talk back and forth to work through them.
“We felt like it was constructive. I expect the next day or so we’ll get more feedback on the specific individuals we should deal with for trying to work through adjusting each of the things that have to be sorted.
“And, then look forward to being really engaged to try to do that.”
The Surfers Paradise Street Circuit was trimmed to 2.96km in 2010, when Supercars took over promotion of the event, and the original layout cannot be reused due to the existence of the Gold Coast Light Rail.
IndyCar will investigate the potential for an extension, which would necessarily be to the north, but Miles confirmed that the current incarnation, which is longer than both the St Petersburg and Toronto street circuits, is also feasible.
“There are thoughts about maybe even extending it and making it a little bit bigger, and we have technical people who would come in and look at everything and work with the state and the city and ourselves to work out what would be the best solution, but I don’t think that’s a game-breaker kind of issue,” explained Miles.
“It’s pretty clear to us that the existing track could be suitable.”
IndyCar was already in the midst of work to re-internationalise its calendar, which is presently the United States plus Toronto only, after previous visits by it and Champ Car to Europe and Asia.
Talks regarding Mexico, which Miles considers an extension of the North American backbone of the series anyway, and a return to Brazil were already taking place.
Despite its far-flung location, the Gold Coast is considered a potentially lucrative drawcard in its own right, with a strong history to build on.
“We’ve been saying for a while, we want to expand outside of North America on a limited basis where we could conceivably start our championship in February abroad,” noted Miles.
“And that’s where the Gold Coast fits in as a potential great opportunity.
“Nostalgia is a good thing and obviously there were great race fans, enthusiastic race fans that embraced IndyCar in the past and by all accounts it was an enormously successful event; huge crowds, great fun.
“And, yet that’s not the only reason for us to look there. We would want to not just to replicate the great event from the past but to improve on it.
“We want these new events to be fabulous events, and you have the sense that could happen in Australia.”
Miles, who spoke of the idea of concerts and a “festival” atmosphere, continued the theme when asked about the cost and source of funding for the exercise.
“We’ve had early conversations with others in the government about the cost,” he confirmed.
“We can’t really tell what it will cost because I know all the things that have to be done but I don’t know what those things will cost in Australia.
“That’s part of trying to work it all out is putting together a proper budget and seeing if it’s feasible.
“I do believe that it’s not just a matter of cost, right? There’s a great commercial opportunity and if we can approximate the kind of crowds of the past that I think it’s only a matter of public support but presumably could generate a great deal of private revenue as well.”
There have been no talks yet between IndyCar and Supercars, which has publicly entertained the idea of a NASCAR race at the Gold Coast 500, but Miles is “open to any possibility” regarding a collaboration with Australia’s largest championship.
The Gold Coast Indy, which in fact fell on the Champ Car side of the split, ran from 1991 to 2008, the last of which was a non-championship affair in the first year of reunification.
A plan for A1GP to share top billing with Supercars fell over with the collapse of the former championship in 2009, and Supercars has been the sole drawcard ever since.