GOLD COAST EVENT COULD BE GREATEST TOURING CAR EVENT EVER SAYS FRANCHITTI
Reigning Indy 500 winner and IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti says this year's Armor All Gold Coast 600 has the makings of "the greatest touring car race the world has seen".
The Scotsman is one of 18 international stars that will co-drive with homegrown talent in round 11 of the V8 Supercar Championship Series, October 22-24, 2010, and will battle fellow Gold Coast entrant Will Power for the IndyCar title this weekend in that Series' season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Franchitti - winner of the 1999 Gold Coast event and one of the most popular drivers in the 19-year history of the annual Gold Coast festival - says he wants to "win again" on the streets of the Gold Coast.
The two-time reigning IndyCar Series champion who drives for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing operation in the US has been announced as part of Dick Johnson's Jim Beam Racing team and will drive with either his good friend James Courtney or Steve Johnson in a pair of 300km endurance races on the reconfigured Surfers Paradise street course.
"The amount of interest this event has generated internationally in a short amount of time has been amazing," said Franchitti.
"When you look at the cars, the drivers, the fan base and the event I cannot think of another touring car race anywhere or at anytime that comes close to what this will be.
"The Gold Coast event is one of the most special in world motorsports and to have the chance to go back down there and race - in no less than a V8 Supercar - is going to be something pretty special.
"When I was first contacted about the idea, I thought it was fantastic and when the opportunity came up to join James (Courtney) at Dick Johnson Racing, it was the icing on the cake."
The two-time defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indy 500 winner considers the Gold Coast event to be one of the best in world motorsports, but he did not expect to compete there again after the race was dropped from the IndyCar schedule in 2009.
"Do I wish that the Gold Coast race was still part of the IndyCar Series? Of course I do, but that is not possible for a lot of reasons," said Franchitti.
"For me, this is the next best thing. I have always been a fan of V8 Supercars and I've been bugging a few friends in Australia for a drive at Bathurst for a few years, but dates have never fallen in my favour.
"To be back in Surfers Paradise in a V8 Supercar is going to be cool and there is not one international driver in the field that I have spoken with who is not serious about winning the event - and that goes double for me.
"To win at Surfers Paradise in both a ChampCar and V8 Supercar would be something pretty special, but with the competition and the talent level in this year's field, not to mention the challenge of getting up to speed in a V8 Supercar, it will be a difficult task for sure."
Franchitti won one of the most memorable Gold Coast CART events in 1999 in what was billed as a massive "title fight" between himself and Juan Pablo Montoya.
After starting from the pole, Franchitti went on to win the Surfers Paradise race and took a slight points lead into the final round of the season two weeks later at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. A jammed wheel nut on his final pit stop relegated him to a 10th place finish, and though equal with Montoya in championship points, Franchitti finished runner-up in the driver's championship after a countback and a tiebreaker.
Armor All Gold Coast 600 General Manager, Shane Howard, said he was delighted that Franchitti had taken up the offer to attend this year's event.
"Dario Franchitti has been one of the great friends of the Gold Coast event and we are all looking forward to him showing us what he can do in a V8 Supercar," said Howard.
"His racing credentials speak for themselves, but his personality and passion for this sport set him apart in this unique industry. We look forward to keeping an eye on his progress in the Indycar Series through the year and appreciate Target Chip Ganassi Racing letting Dario race at our event. We will welcome him with open arms on the Gold Coast in October."
The Armor All Gold Coast 600 will take place in just 23 days time on the streets of the Gold Coast from Friday October 22 to Sunday October 24.
The event will feature 18 international drivers alongside the V8 Supercar stars by day, and 16 International and Australian acts by night, in a continuance of V8 Supercars' highly successful Rock 'n' Race format.