Key personnel at the Australian end of negotiations to keep the Surfers Paradise round on the schedule of the now-unified IndyCar Series insist that the event is safe for the duration of the contract agreed at the start of the season.

Although this year's race will run as a non-championship event, doubt had been cast over whether it would be included in future seasons, particularly as the two sides did not appear to be able to agree on a suitable date. Race organisers want to keep the Indy 300, now sponsored by Nikon, as close to its long-time October slot as possible, but that would cause conflicts with IRL scheduling that not only tries to bring its curtain down earlier in the year but was, this year, impossible as Chicagoland Speedway had already been promised the final on the first weekend of September.

Tony Cochrane, chairman of the supporting V8 Supercar series, was outraged at the choice of alternative dates put forward by the IRL, which meant either moving the Gold Coast event to September - at a time when it would clash, not only with school holidays, but also the culmination of the national Aussie Rules and Rugby League competitions - or March, when it would be in direct competition with F1's season-opener in Melbourne.

While the logic of the September date was clear, as the Australian event would form a cost-effective double-header with Motegi in Japan, Cochrane was adamant that the original date should not be tampered with.

However, despite the dispute having been officially resolved, reports that both sports minister Judy Spence and event chairman Terry Mackenroth have spoken confidently about a deal being found to ensure the event continues with a US visitor headlining rather than A1GP, which has been mooted as a replacement.

"We talked to Tony George and they were very interested in the Gold Coast race - I'm very confident we will have Indy until 2013," Spence told a hand-picked audience - including Indy CEO Greg Hooton, Team Australia boss Craig Gore and V8 supremo Cochrane - as this year's Miss Indy finalists were unveiled at Surfers' Q Deck recently.

Mackenroth, meanwhile, insisted that the event would remain as strong as ever, but called on fans to add even greater support at next month's 19th running.

"We've had strong sales and hope to get the same number of people as last year - 312,000 - over the four days," he commented, "Everyone is really excited about this event and we want to see the 20th Indy, which is next year."

Gold Coast developer-cum-IndyCar sponsor Gore, however, may have the unenviable role of keeping Australian interest in the IRL alive.

Although Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Australian-born Kiwi Scott Dixon look to have safe seats, Gore has admitted that Team Australia - backed by his Aussie Vineyards concern - may disappear next season, potentially taking Will Power with it. Gore has said that keeping Surfers Paradise on the schedule was key to his continued involvement, but he may face a Catch 22 situation of attendances - and therefore the financial viability of the event - depending on him keeping some 'home interest' on track.

"I have made it very clear to the IRL that I would no longer participate in the series if they do not resolve the schedule with the Queensland government," Gore, who claims to support the Indy 300 to the tune of a million dollars annually, confirmed, "It's our home race, there's huge support for the event and I've invested millions of dollars in it because I feel it's such an important event for the Gold Coast."

The loss of Team Australia backing could consequently bring down the Kevin Kalkhoven/Jimmy Vasser-owned KV Racing Technology team, which claims to receive half of its annual budget via Gore. Ironically, the Australian's decision to move his backing - and Power - to KVRT at the start of the year, left veteran entrant Derrick Walker on the sidelines for all but a one-off outing with Paul Tracy and Vision Racing.

Event organisers and state government officials have confirmed that they are scheduled to meet with IRL CEO Tony George during this year's event.



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