Long Beach, California Speedway Lead Domestic Front
DETROIT (November 26, 2001) - The inaugural season-opening race at Monterrey, Mexico and the ever-popular event in Surfers Paradise, Australia combined for more than 600,000 spectators in pacing all CART FedEx Championship Series events in attendance during the 2001 season.
The inaugural Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Herdez captured the top spot in the 21-event CART FedEx Championship Series for overall race attendance as well as race-day attendance. The event kicked off the season in festive fashion with an overall crowd of 318,000 that was fueled by an overflow race-day crowd of 116,000 at Monterrey's Fundidora Park.
"The race was a great success in all aspects," said Fernando Canales, governor of the State of Nuevo León where Monterrey is situated as its capital. "Whatever didn't come out right this year will be righted in 2002 and all the things we achieved with this event will be surpassed in the future ones. We broke a world record for a first-time event. Monterrey is now known all over the world as a place where quality things happen. From my point of view, not only did we pass this first test, we got an 'A' ... and we'll get better."
The event is set to kick off the 2002 season once again as the FedEx Championship Series gets underway March 10 at Fundidora Park.
"The 2001 Tecate-Telmex Grand Prix was a great success," Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Herdez race director Arturo Méndez said. "No single event in the history of the city of Monterrey or the state of Nuevo León has generated more economic benefits. We had no vacancies in hotels from the border to Saltillo [capital of the neighboring state of Coahuila], and we couldn't keep up with demand. We sold out every room in hotels, houses, condos, everywhere. We had people sleeping in their cars. It set a very high standard for an inaugural race anywhere, and we expect the 2002 race to be at the least as successful as this year's.
"We want all Texans who will not have a Houston Grand Prix next year [due to downtown construction] to consider this their race, just like we always considered Houston our race when we didn't have one. We expect to see them here, and we'll be as good to our neighbors as they have been to us throughout the years."
The Honda Indy 300, which winds down the oceanside streets of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia, has been a perennial power since debuting in 1991 and recorded the best attendance in its 11-year history this past season. Ranking second only to Monterrey, the Honda Indy 300 posted a record race-week crowd of 286,810 that was buoyed by an Oct. 28 race-day attendance of 110,187, also a record. The figures topped the previous records of 269,890 and 107,785, respectively, set in 2000. The Hondy Indy 300 now has topped the 100,000 race-day mark for the past three years.
The Honda Indy 300 returns to its slot as the penultimate race of the season with an Oct. 27 date for next year.
"After 11 years on the Gold Coast, the Honda Indy 300 continues to grow in reputation, entertainment value and prestige. The Honda Indy 300 is much more than a race, it's an event and one in which we're very proud of," Honda Indy 300 General Manager Geoff Jones said. "Australians have embraced the CART championship with much enthusiasm and excitement with names such as Andretti, Franchitti, Tracy and Fittipaldi joining Australia's own motor racing heroes as household names. The fans love the competitiveness, camaraderie and showmanship of the FedEx Championship Series and continue to show their support through record attendance at the Honda Indy 300. No doubt the fans are already counting down the days to next year's race."
The international front also was paced by record-setting events in Japan and Toronto, a highly successful debut in Germany and another strong weekend in Vancouver.
The American Memorial 500, dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy, was held Sept. 15 at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany and was another extremely successful inaugural event. Despite a day of rain washing out the entire opening-day practice sessions, European fans totaling 148,853 came out over the three days to get their initial taste of oval racing. The race-day crowd was an impressive 87,689 at the 2-mile tri-oval.
Records were set at the Molson Indy in Toronto and Firestone Firehawk 500 in Motegi, Japan. The ever-successful Molson Indy, run July 15 through the streets at Exhibition Place, established race-day and overall attendance records in its 16th running. The Molson Indy drew 73,628 fans on race day en route to a record mark of 169,023 for the event. The event will move up in the 2002 schedule with a July 7 date.
The Firestone Firehawk 500, which has grown substantially since its debut in 1998, set a race-day attendance record May 19 with a crowd of 72,000 at the Twin Ring Motegi oval. The event will move up in the 2002 schedule with an April 27 date.
In addition to Toronto, Molstar Sports and Entertainment also enjoyed a highly successful event in Vancouver. The Molson Indy garnered its best attendance at its current site, the Concord Pacific Place street course that debuted in 1998. The race drew 65,385 fans and 160,545 overall, including the third-highest Friday (43,917) and Saturday (51,243) attendance figures in the entire history of the 12-year event. The Molson Indy was run Sept. 2 but will move to July 28 for the 2002 season.
"The Molson Indy in Toronto and Vancouver are two of Canada's most popular spectator events, and have become the best week-long celebration in both cities," said Bob Singleton, vice president of Molstar Sports and Entertainment. "Molson Indy fans in Canada are the best fans in the world. In 2001, the show of support for the Molson Indy was evident with record-breaking crowds in both cities resulting in a combined attendance over 330,000. With two of the premier race events on the CART circuit, Molson is very excited to be bringing a third Molson Indy to race fans in Montreal next season."
On the domestic side, Southern California events owned the top spots with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway, respectively.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, another perennial power and marquee event in its 18th year, weathered inclement conditions to still draw an estimated race-day crowd of 85,000 and a race-week total of 225,000. The figures for the April 8 event are estimates from media outlets and outside agencies since the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach does not release official attendance figures.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a traditional April event, will remain in that calendar slot next season with an April 14 date on the schedule.
"We are delighted with the continued support from CART fans in California and the Southwest," said Jim Michaelian, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach chief operating officer. "This year, we added to the uniqueness of our event with the inclusion of a major concert, youth-oriented displays and historical retrospectives, all of which added a new dimension of entertainment to go along with some great CART racing and made for a truly great weekend. We look forward to hosting our 19th CART FedEx Championship Series event here next April 12-14, which will afford the first opportunity to see Champ Cars compete in the U.S. in 2002."
California Speedway, home of the record-setting Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota and series-high $1 million prize to the winner, owned the second-largest oval crowd of the season, trailing only Germany. The Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota drew an estimated 75,000 to the Nov. 4 season finale that featured an all-time Champ Car record 73 lead changes among a record 19 drivers.
"The Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota since its inception has had tremendous fan support," California Speedway President Bill Miller said. "The 2001 event was no exception with more people in our infield than ever before. Even with inclement weather on race day, our guests enjoyed the most competitive race in CART history."
Attendance totals for the entire FedEx Championship Series season will be furnished by Joyce Julius at a later date.
The 2002 schedule begins March 10 with the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Herdez in Monterrey, Mexico and concludes Nov. 3 with the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. The schedule will feature three new events - Montreal (Aug. 25), Denver (Sept. 1) and Mexico City (Oct. 13) - to raise the number of North American races to 15 (10 U.S.) of the 19 currently scheduled.
Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. Reigning two-time champion Gil de Ferran and former series champions Michael Andretti (1991) and Jimmy Vasser (1996) are among the stars who battle for the FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.cart.com.