Wheels in Motion: Edmonton Indy to return

January 11, 2011, 10:06 PM

THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Indy is back on track and its promoter vows to make it a success.

Octane Motorsport Events announced Monday that agreement was reached with the City of Edmonton to hold the IZOD IndyCar Series event as planned on the July 22-24 weekend at Edmonton City Centre Airport.

Montreal-based Octane has also reached agreement on a three-year deal with the Indy Racing League to promote and organize the race.

The city announced Nov. 3 that the 2011 event would not be held due to budgetary concerns.

At issue was who would pay the $3 million cost of repaving a new track layout on the eastern runway of Edmonton City Centre Airport. The city wanted Octane to foot the bill, which the promoter refused.

City spokesman Robert Moyles said the issue was resolved under an arrangement to cover the extra cost through about 2$ million in parking revenue in the area and $1 million from the local business community.

"I think City Hall got pressure from the fans, the media and the business community," said Dumontier. "We’re glad we solved that issue."

Octane was named promoter in July under a three-year deal backed by a $5.5 million sponsorship from the city.

"It’s great to have the Edmonton Indy back on the IZOD IndyCar series schedule because throughout the last couple of years we made a lot of friends and very loyal supporters," driver Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., said in a statement.

"I’m Canadian and I want to race in front of my Canadian fans and sponsors. … Edmonton will be very happy to have kept this race with such a bright future for everyone."

The site shifted from the western to the eastern runway as part of plans to move operations to Edmonton’s International airport. That incurred extra costs to create a new track. Dumontier said that under the contract signed with the city neither Octane nor the IRL was obliged to pay for the work.

However, he said the move would help make the race more attractive because the site now is under the city’s jurisdiction and will no longer be under airport rules that restricted where grandstands could be erected.

He said bleachers can be set up closer to the track and more box seating can be added.

"We can make a track that will be more popular than the last one," he said. "It will make the race more exciting."

Attendance has declined steadily since the inaugural Edmonton event drew more than 200,000 in 2005. It was part of Champ Car for three years before that series merged with the IRL in 2008. The IRL forbids its events from announcing race attendance.

"I don’t want to criticize the previous promoters, but we do this for a living and it’s the only thing we do," said Dumontier, whose company promotes Formula One and NASCAR Nationwide races in Montreal. "We like to think we know what we’re doing and we’re confident we can turn that around.

"We feel the fans are still behind the event."

He predicted Edmonton would become "the capital of racing in western Canada."

The IndyCar series has faded in popularity compared to NASCAR and F1, partly a result of the years the IRL and Champ Car spent struggling for dominance of the North American open wheel racing market.

The 16-race series, run on a mix of road, street and ovals circuits, opens March 27 in St.Petersburg, Fla., and concludes Oct. 2 at Kentucky Speedway. It includes the July 10 race in Toronto.

Scotsman Dario Franchitti of the Target Chip Ganassi team has won three of the last four drivers’ titles.

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