Flat Spot On
by Jonathan Ingram
The race at Surfers Paradise has come and gone, but has it gone for good?
As street races go, this one is among the best. So it seems unlikely the organizers or the IndyCar officials will let it slip through their fingers.
"The good news," said IndyCar owner Tony George, "is that everyone wants to come back."
The drivers to a man (Danica Patrick did not appear overly enthused about this circuit) all voiced great support for the race surrounded by sunshine, condo towers, one of the world's great beaches and fun-seeking Aussies that numbered over 90,000 on race day. Team owners suggested if the race is put on the schedule soon enough to negotiate with sponsors for the 2009 season, they'd want to come back.
Inherited from Champ Car as part of the unification accord, the Nikon Indy 300 appears to provide IndyCar with a benefit to the peace settlement. The sticking point for organizers is the desire to have a championship points race. The IndyCar guys, meanwhile, decline to have their title decided so far from the U.S.
If the money issues can be sorted out from a Queensland support budget of $11 million (Australian) annually and a five-year contract with sponsor Nikon, the short-term solution is to have another non-points race next year in October, a time the Aussies prefer because it falls after the Rugby and Aussie Football season championships.
Beyond that, changing the schedule to a later IndyCar finale at Homestead-Miami in 2009, if that could be accommodated, might keep the October date in place and a points race. A return to a March date does not seem to be out of the question, but nobody in Surfers' seems to be excited about a late summer Down Under date at this stage.
Not too many questions were raised about the fact the IndyCars, built for 200 mph racing on ovals, were four seconds slower than the Champ Cars, built for road racing primarily and now sidelined at Surfers by unification. One source at HPD said another 100 horsepower in the Honda V-8's would only drop the lap times for the IndyCar Dallaras about a second.
This might be a good thing. Cars that were very difficult to drive over the ubiquitous curbs might have meant less adventurous maneuvers despite the fact no points were on the line. On the other hand, the only key pass made by winner Ryan Briscoe came at the first chicane on the start. Otherwise, the race to the front was primarily one of attrition and pit strategy. Ryan Hunter-Reay's battle for third place versus Alex Tagliani was interesting enough, although it was decided in the pits.
Would I recommend taking the time and spending the money to visit the Gold Coast should the race be retained on the IndyCar calendar? If you like beach towns, this is probably the world's biggest, although the weather was not entirely summer-like this particular October. If you like open-air parties full of young people boozing it up and balconies with the occasional topless dancers, then this is the place.
Getting close to the drivers is not too easy and track views absent jumbotrons are limited, unless you have one of those tower condo's or a hotel room with a balcony. This is definitely the place for a room with a view, whether you're looking for waves of speed, waves of people or the white-capped waves in a beautiful blue sea that gave this place its name.
Jonathan Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org