30 January 2015
IndyCar: Brazil cancels 2015 season opener
The first race of the 2015 IndyCar Series season due to be held in Brazil on March 8 has been cancelled, according to the local promoters.
The first race in this year's Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been cancelled, seemingly unilaterally at short notice by Terracap - the development agency of the federal district of the capital city Brasilia which owns the Autodromo International Nelson Piquet circuit that was due to host the event.
A statement from the race promoters BAND posted on the front page of the official event website condemned the "reckless attitude" of Terracap's decision. The statement added that details of refunds to those that had already purchased tickets for the March 8 event would be forthcoming over the next few days.
The news seemed to catch the IndyCar Series itself by surprise but was able to issue a short press release issued on Thursday evening.
"BAND announced today that the race scheduled for March 8 in Brasilia has been cancelled," the release read. "This comes as a great disappointment, and we will have further comment when we have had the opportunity to talk with all of our partners and the authorities in Brazil."
The series added that before today's announcement it "had received every indication that the race was already a success."
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles later told reporters that the decision had come despite strong ticket sales, with the circuit reporting a sell-out of hospitality provision and more than two-thirds of the estimated 60,000 race day capacity already sold with over a month still to go. A title sponsor for the event (ITAIPAVA) had been announced only the previous day.
"It's a shame," said Miles, who insisted that the cancellation was for reasons that had nothing to do with the IndyCar Series itself. "We were all looking forward to a great start to the year in Brazil. There's an appetite for our series in Brazil."
IndyCar previously held a street race in Sao Paulo from 2010 until 2013, and CART had previously held a round in Rio de Janeiro from 1996 through to 2000. The series has several popular drivers from Brazil and South America including Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, who had both been looking forward to racing in front of their home fans.
"I feel terrible special for the fans that Brazil race was announced today it was cancelled," Castroneves posted on Twitter. "I hope and trust in a quick solution in this case." He subsequently added: "I was caught by surprise. As far as I knew everything was going well."
If the situation cannot be salvaged then it will be the second time in recent seasons that a scheduled race has been cancelled just weeks before it was due to be held. In 2012, a conflict with a the timing of a local beer festival forced the cancellation of what would have been the series' inaugural race in China, in the port city of Qingdao, with just two months notice.
When a replacement venue failed to materialise, the loss of the China race was reported to have made a big dent in IndyCar's accounts that year. However the series has evidently learned from the experience, and this time Miles was quick to reassure the Indianapolis Star that "Economically, we're protected, and the paddock is protected."
The modernisation work on the 3.4-mile Autodromo International Nelson Piquet required for it to meet modern safety and performance standards had been well underway, but local sources said that work had slowed down in recent weeks amid rumours of political infighting over growing financial issues in the district. However, no formal elaboration of the reasoning behind Terracap's decision to pull the plug on the event has yet been forthcoming.
In fact IndyCar itself is not yet even able to officially confirm the cancellation of the race, as it has yet to receive the proper paperwork from Brazil. However Miles admitted that "we're not in denial" and that this was now likely to happen in the next day or so.
The all-but-definite cancellation of the Brazil round therefore means that St Petersburg will now be restored to its traditional role as season opener for this year's IndyCar Series season.
The withdrawal of Brazil will also mean that the season will now start three weeks later than originally planned on March 29, and that the 2015 championship will consist of just 16 rounds - six ovals, five road courses and four different temporary street circuits. The only round that will now take place outside the United States will be the street race in Toronto on June 14.
On the upside for the IndyCar teams, the removal of Brazil from the schedule will give them extra time to receive, fit and test the new bespoke aero kit bodywork components that will be supplied by Honda and Chevrolet by March 1.
The new parts were not in any case going to be used in Brazil, with teams having expected to get to run them for the first time during testing at Barber Motorsports Park on March 16-17, ahead of their race début at St Petersburg.
Without the distraction of the flyaway event - which would have used the standard Dallara aerodynamic kits utilised by the teams for the last three seasons - teams will now have more time to get to grips with the new components that will be used for the rest of the season.
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