CART announces postponement of 2004 St. Petersburg race, season to open with running of Grand Prix of Long Beach.
INDIANAPOLIS (December 1, 2003) -- The Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season will open with the 21st running of the Champ Cars at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2004 after CART and race promoter Dover Motorsports Inc. announced the postponement Monday of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The second running of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was to open the season on February 22nd, but the race was postponed, as the impending stockholder vote and possible change in ownership of the series limited the time that the teams would have to prepare for the 2004 Champ Car World Series season.
"There are many issues involved in the pending sale and privatization of the company, but chief among those is the fact that our teams need a certain amount of time to properly prepare themselves for a racing season," said CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook. "We looked at many options, including changing the St. Petersburg race date, but the onset of Major League Baseball Spring Training in Florida limits the available Spring dates. We will continue to work with the city of St. Petersburg to find an appropriate race date for the community in hopes of returning to St. Petersburg in 2004 and beyond."
CART took steps to ensure the future of the event by acquiring the rights as well as all supporting safety equipment associated with the successful operation of the event from Dover Motorsports Inc, allowing CART to hold a race in St. Petersburg pending final approval by the city. CART Champ Car ran its first event on the streets of the South Florida city last year in an historic event that saw Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) become the first Champ Car driver ever to lead the opening lap of his Champ Car career. Series champion Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would go on to win the race, the first of three consecutive victories to start the year.
The postponement means that the series' marquee domestic event will kick off the Champ Car season, as the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will start the year on April 16-18. Over 200,000 fans attended last year's event at the 1.968-mile street course and this year's edition will mark the fourth time that Long Beach has served as the season opener (1984, 85, 87). Dover Motorsports Inc., who will also serve as the race promoter for the Long Beach event, announced that it will issue refunds to all fans that purchased tickets to the St. Petersburg race.
"While we regret that the Champ Car fans won't get the opportunity to see the 2004 season begin in St. Petersburg, we are delighted to kick off a great year of racing with one of the most popular events on our schedule," said Pook. "This will ensure that our teams have sufficient time to ready themselves for the 2004 campaign."