International drivers set to join Gold Coast event

LIST OF INTERNATIONAL STARS SET FOR ARMOR ALL GOLD COAST 600 The Armor All Gold Coast 600 will feature one of the greatest and most varied line-ups of driver talent in Australian motorsport history on the streets of Surfers Paradise,...

LIST OF INTERNATIONAL STARS SET FOR ARMOR ALL GOLD COAST 600

The Armor All Gold Coast 600 will feature one of the greatest and most varied line-ups of driver talent in Australian motorsport history on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia from October 22-24.

In a unique concept developed specifically for the Gold Coast V8 Supercar event, 18 of the world's greatest drivers will team up with local home-grown talent for two 300km races on the world's most spectacular street course.

The list is a who's who of world motorsport including former Formula 1, CART and Indy 500 champion, Jacques Villeneuve. The Canadian was to be on the Gold Coast for tonight's lavish launch, but was stranded in Europe because of the volcanic ash turning that part of the world into a no-fly zone.

The list includes current international Australian aces David Brabham, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, Kiwi Scott Dixon, Scottish ace and former Gold Coast Champ Car race winner Dario Franchitti, North America's most successful road course racer and 1997 Gold Coast winner, Scott Pruett, four-time Champ Car and two-time Gold Coast winner Sebastien Bourdais from France, former European F1 drivers and current touring car and sportscar guns Heinz-Harold Frentzen (Germany), Tiago Monteiro (Portugal), Mika Salo (Finland), Andy Priaulx (UK), Gianni Morbidelli (Italy), Fabrizio Giovanardi (Italy), Alain Menu (Switzerland) and Yvan Muller (France).

The final list of drivers was announced at a spectacular event on the Gold Coast tonight by State Premier, Anna Bligh and V8 Supercars Chairman, Tony Cochrane.

Also announced on the night was a massive three-day music extravaganza featuring some of the world's biggest acts, a four-year naming rights sponsorship with Armor All, a new ticketing pricing structure which will see tickets drop by an average of 20% and a new family-friendly focus on the event.

"When we first announced the concept for the Gold Coast race a few people were a little skeptical, but I think the list we have announced today proves just how special this event is going to be," said Cochrane.

"This is one of the greatest line-ups of talent we have seen in world motorsport and to have the caliber of these international drivers mixed with our own V8 Supercar stars on the streets of Surfers Paradise is going to be something special.

"When we mix the racing action with the 16 fantastic music acts we have secured for our unique Rock and Race format, we will have something special on the streets of Surfers Paradise in October."

Englishman Mark Blundell was originally announced as part of the initial line-up a couple of months ago, but increasing commitments with his business 2mb Sports Management has meant his withdrawal.

The international drivers are set to arrive on the Gold Coast on the Sunday before the event and will be involved in a week of activity, including a full-day test at Queensland Raceway on Wednesday, October 20.

The event will include two 300km races on Saturday and Sunday of the event, with the international drivers required to complete a minimum of 30% of each of the races.

Each two-car team must run at least one international driver.

- Sebastien Bourdais -- France -- Dick Johnson Racing
- David Brabham -- Australia -- Stone Brothers Racing
- Ryan Briscoe -- Australia -- Toll Holden Racing Team
- Scott Dixon -- NZ -- Jack Daniel's Racing
- Dario Franchitti -- Scotland -- Jim Beam Racing
- Heinz-Harald Frentzen -- Germany -- Wilson Security Racing
- Fabrizio Giovanardi -- Italy -- Brad Jones Racing
- Patrick Long -- USA -- Fujitsu Racing
- Alain Menu -- Switzerland --Brad Jones Racing
- Tiago Monteiro -- Portugal -- Centaur Racing
- Gianni Morbidelli -- Italy -- Triple F Racing
- Yvan Muller -- France -- Paul Morris Motorsport
- Will Power -- Australia -- Ford Performance Racing
- Andy Priaulx -- UK -- TeamVodafone
- Scott Pruett -- USA -- Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport
- Mika Salo -- Finland -- Bundaberg Red Racing Team
- Alex Tagliani -- Canada -- Kelly Racing
- Jacques Villeneuve -- Canada -- The Bottle-O Racing Team

WHAT SOME OF THE DRIVERS HAVE TO SAY

JACQUES VILLENEUVE:

"I have some tremendous memories of the Gold Coast event from my Indycar days," said Villeneuve, from Europe.

"It has been a while since I have been to the Gold Coast, but the event has always rated highly in the world of motorsports.

"Surfers Paradise is a beautiful part of the world and I am really looking forward to getting back down there.

"Unfortunately the volcano eruption in Iceland caused some issues with me getting back down to Australia for the launch this week, but hopefully I can get down for an advance visit in coming months.

"The V8 Supercars are a fantastic series with a terrific following and I cannot wait for the chance to drive one in anger.

"I think the international driver concept for the Gold Coast 600 is already creating a great amount of interest and that will only get stronger as we get closer to the event."

DARIO FRANCHITTI:

"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," said Franchitti, from the US.

"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."

"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.

"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 wining the event -- and that goes double for me. To win at Surfers Paradise in both a Champ Car and V8 Supercar would be something pretty special."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:

"I have the honor of being the only driver to have won the Gold Coast Champ Car race twice and that is something that I am very proud of," said Bourdais, from France yesterday.

"The Gold Coast is a special event for any driver who races there -- it is such a fantastic place and this year I am hoping to explore the region and Queensland a little more. The concept for the Gold Coast 600 is fantastic and I cannot wait to get back out there in a V8 Supercar -- racing against the best V8 Supercars have to offer as well as a host of guys who I have been racing against in some form or another all over the world through my career.

"The interest in this event in Europe is already starting to gain momentum, especially in the driver ranks, where plenty of guys are already putting up their hand for next year. I look forward to teaming up with Jonathon Webb at Dick Johnson Racing.

"Since it will be a first for me in V8, the expectations are measured but I hope I can do well enough to well enough to deserve everyone's trust. See you in the streets of Surfers in October."

SCOTT PRUETT:

"The Gold Coast and the October event have been synonymous with the world's great motorsport events for many years and it is fantastic that this concept has been put together for its 20th anniversary celebrations," said Pruett.

"This will provide a real re-birth to the event and take it back to the glory days of the late 90s and early 00s.

"I loved my years on the Gold Coast, especially my victory in 1997 -- ironically that year I was actually on my honeymoon with my wife, Judy.

"My drive in a V8 Supercar at Bathurst later that year was a great experience and one I am looking forward to repeating.

"I don't need any excuse to come to Australia, so when I received a call to be part of this program I jumped at the chance. I think the opportunity to drive a V8 Supercar on one of the world's greatest street courses will be pretty attractive to plenty of the world's great drivers."

ALEX TAGLIANI:

"The Gold Coast is one of the most special places in the world for me -- it was where I met my Australian wife, Bronte," said Tagliani.

"I have also had some good results over the years, including a third for Team Australia in 2006 in a Champ Car. That same year I drove at Bathurst with Marcus Marshall in the V8 Supercar Series. That gave me a taste of V8 Supercar racing which I have been keen to experience again as the V8 Supercars are one of the great categories of world racing.

"After that experience racing with Marcus Marshall, I have made no secret of the fact that I would like to spend a couple of seasons racing V8s in Australia once my open-wheel career is finished. This event will be a good thing for my CV -- and I guess for a few other drivers who will be lining up from countries all over the world. I am very much looking forward to racing in the same team as my buddy Jason Bargwanna with Kelly Racing."

WILL POWER:

"I have some unfinished business on the Gold Coast and maybe we can get it done in a V8 Supercar," said Power.

"I am looking forward to a great season with Team Penske in the Indy Racing League and then having the chance to race a V8 Supercar in front of a Queensland home crowd on the Gold Coast will be the icing on the cake.

"There are so many of us who seriously missed not racing on the Gold Coast last year and it's great news that the event has survived last year's drama and will move forward with this unique format.

"There are so many drivers around the world who have asked me what it is like to drive a V8 Supercar, now a lot of them will get their chance to find out."

RYAN BRISCOE:

"It will be a lot of fun racing all the other international drivers that don't race V8 Supercars for a living," said Briscoe.

"There will be a lot of talent, but also a lot of inexperience in those cars. It's a daunting track with fast sections and close walls so there could be a bit of carnage along the way.

"It is going to be a huge event as it always is and I can't wait for it. It's Australia's premier category and there are plenty of great teams and professional drivers. There's certainly a lot of talent and I certainly love coming back when I can and get behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar.

"I guess I am the defending international champion after winning the final IndyCar race in 2008, I would like to keep that record in tact. My parents are happy because they don't have to pay for an international airfare."

SCOTT DIXON:

"Gold Coast as a race, for me it was my favourite race," said Dixon.

"I'm probably a little biased because I can catch up with friends and family with it being so close to New Zealand. The fact that you have the party atmosphere, you have a big race going on, it's by the beach, you couldn't ask for anything more and it's definitely a standout.

"I'd say 90 percent, or even 110 percent, of the drivers, always loved that race. It was the best race that we go to and everybody looked forward to it.?Everybody would fly in a week before the race. A lot of the races here in America you fly in the Thursday night before it starts on Friday. It's a shame that we're not back there in the IndyCar but to obviously go back in a V8 is going to be even cooler."

DAVID BRABHAM:

"Unfortunately I have never had the chance to race on the Gold Coast before, but all that is about to change," said Brabham.

"The event is well known around the world and it has always been of extra interest to me because the Gold Coast is home to most of my family (including dad Sir Jack Brabham who won the 1959-60 and 66 F1 world titles and brother, Geoff, who is also a former Le Mans 24-hour winner).

"It is one of the world's toughest street circuits and attacking it in a V8 Supercar will be no easy task, especially for those who will be driving one for the first time. Fortunately I have done a few laps in a V8 over the years and I am looking forward to getting out there.

"I have a full season of ALMS racing for Highcroft Racing ahead of me in the US and other selected events, including the Le Mans 24-hour, but then we head home for what should be a terrific week."

MARK BLUNDELL TAKES RAIN CHECK ON GOLD COAST 600

Englishman Mark Blundell has had to withdraw from the final list of international drivers for this year's Gold Coast 600 because of increasing business commitments.

The former F1 and Champ Car driver was named as one of the original five international drivers for the event a couple of months ago, but has to regrettably withdraw his participation.

Blundell and fellow F1 driver Martin Brundle established 2mb Sports Management in 2005 as a boutique talent management company committed to identifying and developing young sports talent.

In January 2009, Blundell took sole ownership of the company, which looks after the interest of many young stars in a cross-section of sports.

The recent development of a dedicated football (soccer) division has seen the business grow dramatically.

"When the opportunity was presented to be a part of this new-look concept on the Gold Coast I leapt at the chance," said Blundell.

"Unfortunately growing business interests and an unavoidable date clash in the week of the race has meant that I cannot make it down to Surfers Paradise.

"I wish everyone well with the 're-birth' of that great event and look forward to possibly getting down there next year."

Gold Coast 600 General Manager, Shane Howard, said he was disappointed Blundell could not be part of the inaugural new-look International format.

"Mark Blundell has a great racing pedigree and was a solid fit for what we are trying to achieve with the new format at the Gold Coast 600," said Howard.

"We are disappointed that he will not be able to make it down here in October, but we understand the demands of running a successful business like he has.

"We thank him to letting us know of his situation well in advance so we could continue our planning."

-source: bammedia

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Jacques Villeneuve , Andy Priaulx , David Brabham , Mika Salo , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Scott Pruett , Mark Blundell , Martin Brundle , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Yvan Muller , Patrick Long , Ryan Briscoe , Jack Brabham , Marcus Marshall , Brad Jones , Jason Bargwanna , Paul Morris , Will Power , Gianni Morbidelli , Jonathon Webb , Dick Johnson , Alain Menu , Shane Howard , Jim Beam
Teams Brad Jones Racing , Team Penske , Holden Racing Team