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IndyCar aims for October race in China

IndyCar aims for October race in China
May 9, 2016, 4:54 PM

The ‘Beijing Indy 600’ will be a non-championship event in 2016, to be held some five weeks after the season finale in Sonoma.

Mark Miles
China flag
Race action signage around the Beijing ePrix circuit
Mayhem in Turn 4
Race action
Start action
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Start: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads
Race winner and series champion Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet with team owner Chip Ganassi

The event is due to be held on October 22nd and 23rd, around a 2.56-mile street course in the city’s Fengtai District. The deal has been put together by Asia Region Development, whose CEO Joe Chrnelich was behind the stillborn IndyCar event at Qingdao four years ago.

Beijing currently hosts the season-opening Formula E race, but the proposed IndyCar layout does not use the same streets.

Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s parent company Hulman & Company, has just returned from Beijing and told “For some months we have been involved in discussions with Joe and principals in China who are interested in having an IndyCar race. If it happens, it will be in the Fengtai District which is currently under development.

“Lots of infrastructure has been put in place – the streets are perhaps 50 percent built, and the real estate development is also underway.”

However, Miles insisted the event has not yet been confirmed, as it is contingent on a number of factors.

“The status is that there are a number of material points that have to be finalized,” he said, “so we will not announce the race and it is not on our calendar until such time that all those points are checked off.”

While Miles said one of those points was money being paid to the series upfront, he also stated that the economic question wasn’t the only one that needed answering.

He explained: “Tony Cotman [of NZR Consulting] has worked on a track design based on the plans for the city’s streets. But we’re not going to confirm a race or track until we know that’s exactly what’s going to get built! I think it is, but we have to know it is.

“We cannot have anything left up in the air, or we won’t announce the race and we will not go. The deadline we’ve given is the first week in June. If we cannot confirm by then, it won’t be happening.”

Despite the event’s working title of Beijing Indy 600, Miles said this appeared to have no relation to race length. He dismissed the idea that it might be referring to two 300km (186-mile) races, stating: “There is only one race to be held, usual length. This will not be a double-header.”

Beijing may remain a non-championship event

Miles has long been seeking international races to add to the front end of the IndyCar schedule, so that St. Petersburg remains the first U.S. race but may be Round 2 or 3 in the series’ calendar.

However, he does not envision Beijing moving up the schedule in future years and becoming a points race.

“October was the timeframe ARD were interested in for 2016,” he commented, “and we said that if that’s the case, then it could not be a points race and they agreed to that.

“As you know, February is the only real opportunity for international points-paying events, and the Beijing organizers don’t think February works for them.

“If there was a bigger vision, it might be two or three races in China after the main IndyCar season, and you award points for a small China series. But that’s purely speculation, and this event, should it go ahead, is not contingent on that.”

Miles also confirmed that he would not be seeking to make a Beijing race the season finale in 2017 and beyond.

“No, China will not host our championship finale this year or any other year,” he said. “We’ve said countless times that our strategy is to add two international points races in February, start racing in North America in St. Pete, remain in North America, and crown our champion in the United States.”

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Series IndyCar
Author David Malsher