As has been rumoured since talks to continue US open-wheel racing on the Gold Coast reached an impasse
over dates, organisers of the Nikon Indy 300 have swapped the IndyCar Series for a round of the A1 Grand Prix 'World Cup of Motorsport'.
After 18 unbroken years of Champ Car racing at the Australian resort, the Indy Racing League staged just one, exhibition, event this season before stalling on future races because it wanted to prise the round away from its established October date - against the wishes of the organisers. Options in March, where it would have clashed with the F1 grand prix in Melbourne and as part of a double-header in September, which fell outside of Australian school holidays and clashed with the national football and rugby finals, were dismissed.
"They have an expanded series of events and our Indy clashes with the early part of the American Football season," Queensland state sports minister Judy Spence told reporters on Tuesday, "Moving our race to March, as they had requested, was not an option."
A1GP had been rumoured as a potential replacement even before Ryan Briscoe won the 2008 IRL race, and now accepts the prestigious slot alongside the national V8 Supercar Series.
The nation-versus-nation competition has signed a five-year contract to run on the street course at Surfers Paradise, marking the first change of emphasis in the package's single-seater slot since the event started in 1991. When it became known that the IRL might not be back, there was an immediate queue from other global series wanting to be involved, but the Queensland government, which partially subsidises the event, insisted on pairing an open-wheel class with the V8s, which might explain why A1GP got the nod over a rumoured appearance by the European-based DTM touring car series.
The race could now be renamed as the Gold Coast 300 as Nikon was the naming rights sponsor for 2008, but the contract going forward hasn't been finalised and could be affected by the loss of the US element.
More details will undoubtedly follow....