Ric Peterson and James Hinchcliffe positive about the prospect of Indy cars returning to western Canada
An IndyCar race in Calgary in September 2017 is looking more likely, according to series team owner and local businessman Ric Peterson. Should Calgary join Toronto on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, it would mean Indy cars raced in both the largest and third-largest cities in Canada.
Peterson, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, told Motorsport.com: “Things are coming along pretty darn good. It’s in the hands of Green-Savoree [the racing promotions company owned by former Indy car team principals Kevin Savoree and Kim Green] but they’re very good about keeping me updated. The original plan was for September 2017 and that still looks like a good possibility.”
The proposed race venue is Stampede Park, which hosts the annual Calgary Stampede, a rodeo-based festival held right in the heart of the city. That means it’s 200 miles south of Alberta’s last Indy car track at Edmonton City Centre Airport, which hosted Champ Car and then the unified IndyCar Series over eight years, 2005-’12.
“No doubt about it, Canada still has a real passion for open-wheel racing,” said Peterson, who founded Calgary-based oilfield hauling company Oculus. “The area just really supports sporting events of all kinds. For example, the Calgary Stampede attracts more than 100,000 people (a day) for more than 10 days in a row!”
The race and preparations for the race shouldn’t interfere with people’s day-to-day lives, even though it’s right in the heart of Calgary. So I don’t expect opposition from the local population
Although the proposed race would not be an Oculus-sponsored event, Peterson is confident that it would have the support of Canadian businesses and Calgary media. It would therefore face fewer of the local hurdles encountered by the organizers of next year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Boston.
Said Peterson: “Using the Stampede grounds means the race and preparations for the race shouldn’t interfere with people’s day-to-day lives, even though it’s right in the heart of Calgary. So I don’t expect opposition from the local population, nor from the media. For example, [SPM driver] James Hinchcliffe came to town last week for an Oculus customer appreciation event, and while he was here he was on four different TV stations and in two different newspapers. The enthusiasm and support for racing is clearly there.
“It would definitely be a problem if we had no Canadians in the series, but at least in James we have one and hopefully there will soon be more.”
Regarding the preferred date of a Calgary race, Peterson explained: “It’s a relatively short summer up here. The Stampede is in July and then in August a lot of people are on holiday. But by September, everyone has come back to town.”
Hinchcliffe: “Calgary is the logical choice”
James Hinchcliffe, who has played a central role in the attempts to land a second Canadian race on the IndyCar schedule, told Motorsport.com he’s pleased with local response in Calgary.
“Right from when we started looking at a Calgary event, the people we’ve spoken to in prominent positions and the conversations we’ve had have all been positive,” said the four-time IndyCar race winner. “Certainly I’d say there have been surprisingly few roadblocks up to this point.
“That said, no-one’s had to write a check yet! But I think we’ve communicated with the right people on the city side, and everyone on the racing side is eager to be there. So I’d say the signs are that this will happen in the not-too-distant future.”
The market is there and the Canadian race fans are super-cool, super-enthusiastic
The popular Toronto-born ace said: “I’m an east coast boy, sure, but above all I’m a Canadian, and so the more races we have north of the border, the better. I know how popular Vancouver was before we lost that in 2004, and Edmonton was really strong for a couple of years. The market is there and the Canadian race fans are super-cool, super-enthusiastic. Ideally I’d like three races in Canada. But before we get to three, we need to get back up to two.”
As well as Vancouver, Edmonton and the long-established street race in Toronto, Canadian fans saw CART Indy cars race at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve 2002-’06, and then at Mont-Tremblant in 2007. Ever since, there been rumors of a street race in Quebec City, and speculation as to why Indy cars don’t race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, better known as Mosport.
However, Hinchcliffe said: “After Vancouver’s demise, Calgary was the next logical choice. It’s the financial hub of western Canada and it had already been discussed as a potential venue. But then with it being the home event for Ric [Peterson] and Oculus, that really got the momentum going and he’s been super-motivated to make it happen.
“He found the right people to talk to, and so I think there are now a lot of decision-makers who can see a Calgary race will make a lot of sense.”
Motorsport.com previously reported that a Calgary IndyCar race was being considered back in February.