PEDAL TO THE METAL ON NEW ERA FOR AUSTRALIA'S #1 MOTORSPORT EVENT
A spectacular 24-strong parachute drop over Main Beach this morning heralded the official launch of a 'new era' for Australia's premier motorsport event -- the Nitro SuperGP on Queensland's Gold Coast.
Now less than 100 days away from the starter's flag, the Nitro SuperGP will see more than 20 nations battle head-to-head when A1GP World Cup of Motorsport joins the Australian V8 Supercars Championship Series on the streets of Surfers Paradise from October 22-25.
Official speeches and international food, drink and entertainment followed the parachutists' landing today, which featured flags representing each of the competing nations as well as the Australian V8 Supercars Championship Series and its famous marques Ford and Holden.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said for the 19th year in a row the world's motorsport spotlight would shine on the Gold Coast event -- making it one of the longest-running and most successful of its kind in the world.
"The Gold Coast has become a permanent fixture on the international motorsport circuit and the festival has been entertaining locals and visitors alike for nearly two decades," Ms Bligh said.
"And this year is expected to be bigger and better with the sleek, Ferrari-powered A1GPs mixing it with the pure muscle and brute force of our home-grown V8 Supercars.
"Over 300,000 are expected to attend the 2009 Nitro SuperGP, not to mention the 700 international media that will take this great city to the world.
"And this attention brings big business to the Gold Coast and Queensland.
"Our hotels and hospitality industry will benefit from more than 173,000 visitor nights; locals will benefit from the equivalent of over 550 casual, full-time jobs; and the Queensland economy will get a $60 million shot in the arm.
"Events like this are the lifeblood of Queensland tourism meccas like the Gold Coast and the Government is proud to continue its support of the motorsport festival," she said.
Nitro SuperGP Chairman Terry Mackenroth echoed the sentiments of the Premier and unveiled details of an enhanced race program for the event.
"The 2009 race program will provide fans with more racing than ever before," said Mackenroth.
"Thursday for the first time will see open-wheel action, with the first practice session of A1GP, as well as actual open-wheel racing on both the Saturday and Sunday, while the V8 Supercars take to the track for two 200km races after completing practice and the first stage of qualifying on Friday," said Mackenroth.
"This exciting new race format will provide more on-track action and racing to our spectators than ever before and deliver great value for money for everyone.
"Expanding on the race program developments, 2009 also sees major works to the pit area and after 18 years an investment in a completely new hospitality and pit garage facility."
Also on hand to witness the spectacle along with the invited guests were V8 Supercar drivers Alex Davison, Shane van Gisbergen, James Courtney, Michael Patrizi and Fabian Coulthard, as well as the first of the official Nitro SuperGP ambassadors.
Brisbane Roar's Serginho van Dijk (A1 Team Netherlands), Gold Coast Blaze's Joey Wright (A1 Team USA) and Malaysian Club of Queensland president Teng Hee Tan (A1 Team Malaysia) -- who took a particular interest in the A1 Team Malaysia race car on display, were all on hand today.
A1GP General Manager Franchise and Special Projects Paul Cherry said the open-wheel category was extremely proud to be a part of the Nitro SuperGP.
"This event is iconic -- when you look globally there are a number of classic events and this is one of them," said Cherry.
"It is always a fantastic weekend, and to be given the chance to run here, we are very proud to have the opportunity and hopefully we can bring plenty of action to the track come October."
V8 Supercar Executive Chairman Tony Cochrane said the Gold Coast event was especially close to the hearts of the home-grown Aussie V8s.
"This event is very dear to the hearts of V8 Supercars, many of the people involved in our sport live and play on the Gold Coast, and our headquarters are based here," said Cochrane.
"We consider this event to be a showcase for V8 Supercars -- we race in 15 places each year and this one is in our backyard and we love that.
"This year with the two 200km races and moving to the new pit facility, it is a wonderful opportunity for V8 Supercars and we are delighted to be getting ready for the event.
"I have a feeling this year is going to be better than ever, with racing across the weekend from two world-class categories, and I can't wait to see everyone there on October 22-25."