The IZOD IndyCar Series will be returning to Houston in 2013, with confirmation on Wednesday that next year's calendar now includes the Grand Prix of Houston to be held on the 1.7-mile, 10-turn circuit at Reliant Park on the weekend of October 4-6.
“As the fourth-largest city in the country, Houston is a great fit for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Reliant Park will be a tremendous venue," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. “Aside from the size of the market and what it brings, to be in the Reliant Park complex is just a phenomenal venue that will be great because it's so convenient and well-packaged."
US open wheel racing last featured at Houston in 2006 and 2007 in the Champ Car World Series, with both races won by Sebastien Bourdais - who was duly excited by the news that Houston would be on the calendar again from next year.
“We have had our share of success in Houston so I'm happy to see it back on the schedule,” said Bourdais. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's a really hard course. It's what we call concrete racing and it's not easy."
The race has multi-year title sponsorship from Shell and Pennzoil, and the CEO of the event will be Mike Lanigan, co-owner of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.
“We are thrilled to be returning to Houston,” said Lanigan. "“The Grand Prix was very successful in 2006 and 2007, with big crowds at Reliant Park witnessing an exciting three-day festival of speed. In 2013 it will be better than ever.”
The announcement is set to be just the first of a number of new venues joining the series in 2013, with Randy Bernard having previously stated that he would like to see as many as 19 or 20 events on the calendar.
Other candidates in line to join the IndyCar line-up include a street course at Fort Lauderdale, a new road course in Palm Springs and the peerless four-mile road course at Elkhart Lake. Another former Champ Car favourite at the Portland International Raceway is also a potential addition.
It also emerged in recent weeks that Bernard had even been cold-called by race organisers in Queensland about a possible return to Surfers Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast, a long-time favourite venue with drivers and especially the Australian contingent led by Penske's Will Power and Ryan Briscoe. However, the cost and logistics of a long-distance fly-away event together with the time zone difference with the US is thought to make this unlikely, and team owner Chip Ganassi has already spoken out
recently against adding more non-US races to the calendar above those in Canada, Brazil and China.