A1GP organisers have admitted to great excitement after landing a five-year contract to replace the IndyCar Series as the primary open-wheel element of the annual motorsport jamboree on Australia's Gold Coast.

After it emerged that the Americans would not find common ground with their Australian counterparts over dates, the World Cup of Motorsport put forward its case to join the V8 Supercar Series at the top of the bill in Surfers Paradise, and was selected over other possible contenders when it was emphasised that an international single-seater category would be the preferred option. The Gold Coast event, which will be able to keep its traditional October date, will be added to season five of A1GP.

"We wanted to go back to Australia and this is the ideal venue for our series," commented series chairman Tony Teixeira, "A lot of people have worked hard on putting this deal together and, now it has come to fruition, it is very exciting.

"I am aware that we are being given a perfect opportunity to showcase our series to the Australian fans, who have been great supporters of both the series and their own team. Australia has a rich motorsport heritage and I know our TV fans worldwide will be delighted to have this spectacular race on our calendar.

"Both the Government and IMG have offered us every courtesy in putting this together, and I reckon we must have set a record in doing such an important deal in such a short space of time."

The first race on the Queensland street track, which hosted 18 Champ Car and IndyCar races between 1991-2008, will take place on the weekend of 22-25 October, satisfying event organisers that had been offered alternative slots in March and September by the IndyCar organisation.

"I'm excited to announce that A1GP will now be racing on the streets of Surfers Paradise and that we're able to bring the World Cup of Motorsport to the Gold Coast and Australia," Greg Hooton, general manager of the renamed Gold Coast 300, added, "We view the new partnership with A1GP as a great opportunity to continue to further develop the event and a wonderful attribute for the Gold Coast.

"It is critical for us to continue to produce a world class motorsport event and being able to combine the uniqueness of A1GP within Australia's most popular motor racing festival gives us a great platform for future growth."

Queensland sports minister Judy Spence admitted that was disappointing that hurdles in relation to the timing and funding of the IndyCar event could not be overcome.

"They have an expanded series of events and our Indy clashes with the early part of the American football season," she told goldcoast.com.au, "Moving our race to March, as they had requested, was not an option due to the clash with the F1 grand prix in Melbourne and the Clipsal V8 race in Adelaide. In addition, a March race would have involved track construction right in the middle of January school holidays and we would not tolerate Gold Coast residents being inconvenienced."

State premier Anna Bligh acknowledged that, while some people might be disappointed at the loss of the visit from a US-based series, which was little known in Australia before coming to the Gold Coast, the replacement would soon become just as well known - and would have far more benefits for the local economy.

"This race has an international reputation and, because the cars are competing on behalf of their countries instead of on behalf of a sponsor, I think it is a real opportunity to expand the fan base," she told The Bulletin, "A1 has all the glamour, all the international pizzazz and excitement.

"It also has a larger television viewing audience and a larger and more diverse television audience, [where] Indy was overwhelmingly an American audience. A1 brings not only an American audience, but a very big European and Asian audience. It will give a new lease of life to our event on-track with all the fun and excitement off-track also set to continue."

Bligh also revealed that there had been strong indications that the IndyCar Series could have come back to the Gold Coast but, in the end, these were damaged by the ongoing issues over funding and demands for the race date to be moved. She confirmed that the A1GP deal would come at no extra cost to the state government, which is expected to maintain the $11m a year funding it provided for the Indy Carnival.

"The date issue would have meant major track construction right in the middle of the January school holidays, and that is peak tourist season for the Gold Coast," she confirmed, "It was an insurmountable clash of priorities. The government invests in this event because we want to foster and increase tourism [and], to have track construction in peak season, would have defeated the purpose."

Despite taking a break this season, A1GP has raced at Eastern Creek under the guidance of Gold Coast resident Alan Jones, and the former F1 world champion is delighted to see the series returning to Australia.

"It has been a big hole in the A1GP calendar this year, not being in Australia," he admitted, "To say I am thrilled about this deal is an understatement. Having the chance to race in my own back yard is something special for me and the team. We are looking forward to it and I can warn all the other teams now I aim to make sure we have a home win in Surfers."



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