Barely a week away from the start of the fifth season of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, mixed messages are filtering through regarding the championship's health – and whether there will even be a curtain-raising meeting in Australia at all.
Last month, a nine-round schedule was announced by organisers, beginning with the nation vs nation series' maiden appearance on the Nikon SuperGP bill in Surfers Paradise on 25 October, 2009 and winding up in the Netherlands on 16 May, 2010. At the same time, it was revealed that a long-term deal had been struck with IMG Sports Media as its exclusive distribution partner, tasked with marketing A1GP's global media rights for the next three campaigns.
However, preparations for the forthcoming season have been persistently dogged by cynicism, doubts and rumours about the series' financial health, after A1 Grand Prix Operations – a subsidiary of A1 Holdings Ltd – went into receivership on 24 June, owing tens of millions of pounds to its creditors. That reportedly led to freight company DOT holding all cars and equipment in its storage shed until the money was paid, with A1GP general manager Paul Cherry alluding to the requisite funding having subsequently been found to both safeguard and grow the championship over the coming years.
“It's a group of investors who see a great value in moving forward,” he had underlined. “Now we have to go back to court to come out of administration. We need to prove that we have the funding to meet our financial obligations.”
A1GP chairman Tony Teixeira had vowed to 'settle all our outstanding creditors' before the 6 October High Court hearing in London to petition for the company to be taken out of liquidation.
It has been mused that many of A1GP's financial difficulties have arisen since the championship's deal with Ferrari two years ago, that has reportedly ended up costing far more than was originally forecast.
Other paddock whispers have suggested that A1GP is already effectively 'closed for business', with staff going regularly unpaid, a succession of empty financial promises and suppliers keen to reclaim their equipment and parts. It has also been alleged by sources in Italy that Ferrari has pulled the plug on its involvement after payments were missed for more than a month.
In the latest twist in the extraordinary saga, Australian national television has now reported that A1GP's appearance in the Gold Coast outing next weekend has been cancelled, 'due to problems with series organisers' – a claim that has been refuted by the event's general manager, Greg Hooton [see separate story – click here
“We are all working hard and trying to get everything [to Australia] to be able to race next week,” an A1GP spokesperson told Crash.net
, when asked about the speculation. “There have been rumours and stories regarding funding and all sorts of things being written, but we are still working on getting the cars and personnel there to race. We're just waiting on the final confirmation that it's all systems go. There will hopefully be more updates within 24 hours.”