Edmonton race peeled off 2011 schedule

By Dave Lewandowski

After three years of racing on a temporary City Centre Airport circuit, the IZOD IndyCar Series won’t return to Edmonton, Alberta, in 2011.

Octane Motorsports Events Inc., which received City Council approval days before the July 25 race won by Scott Dixon to negotiate a deal to take over promotion of the event from Northlands for three years, and the City of Edmonton could not come to an agreement by an Oct. 29 deadline.

Montreal-based Octane sought to retain the original 1.96-mile course, but the city closed Runway 16-34 a week after the Honda Indy Edmonton and moved air traffic to Runway 12-30, which was repaved prior to the IZOD IndyCar Series’ initial visit. Retaining that circuit would close the airport – primarily used for cargo, by the military and private pilots – during the three days of the event.

Octane agreed to reconfigure the course incorporating the closed runway, but the sticking point is who would cover the financial obligation – projected at $2.2 million (Canadian) — for repaving and site improvements on the runway and taxi roads to meet the sanctioning body’s approval. City Council declined to act on funding beyond approving in July its $5.5 million, three-year contribution to the event as a major sponsor.

In a statement, City of Edmonton CFO Lorna Rosen said: “City Council quite properly set reasonable limits on the amount it was willing to invest and in the end we just could not make the money work. We looked at a range of possibilities for additional investment or cost savings. … but the city reached its limit on what it could invest.”

“We are extremely sad to confirm that our group will not be able to offer to the Western Canadian fans an Indy racing event in Edmonton in 2011,” Octane president Francois Dumontier said in a statement. “We set a deadline for a final answer from the City of Edmonton concerning the status of the eastern runway and its surroundings grounds at the City Centre Airport. Until the last minute, we hoped that the city would agree with our legitimate request to provide us a site equivalent to the one the previous promoters have worked with and without having our group investing in ground works.

“The city’s final decision has made it impossible for us — as professional and experienced motorsports promoters — to offer an event complying with our high quality standards, able to satisfy the fans and the sanctioning organizations and maintain the quality of the spectacle.

“Negotiations delayed our marketing plan for the 2011 event and already compromised its success. This delay also conflicted with our July public promise to the fans to be at work in Edmonton in September 2010.”

The 2011 event was scheduled for July 24 – two weeks following the Honda Indy Toronto and two weeks before the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Octane Motorsports Events is expected to meet with INDYCAR officials next week to examine potential venues to keep 17 races on the schedule “if possible to the benefit of Western Canadian fans,” according to Dumontier. The group also promotes the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.

“We are disappointed that the city and the promoter were unable to reach an agreement on the venue changes,” the sanctioning body said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that in a time when INDYCAR is experiencing momentum and growth, the city would want to miss out on the opportunity to be part of it. We’ve enjoyed our time at Edmonton as the fans there truly embraced Indy car racing.

“We currently are examining options for our schedule to see if there are opportunities to replace the event. As we move ahead into 2011, we are confident that our schedule will continue to produce the fastest and most versatile racing in the world, challenging both driver and team alike while providing exciting entertainment for fans.”

City Centre Airport has been in operation since the 1930s. It was expanded during World War II to accommodate its role as part of the Northwest Staging Route, which was used to ferry aircraft and other equipment to the Soviet Union. The facility played host to three Champ Car World Series races in 2005-07. Dixon won the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race in the Alberta capital, with Will Power prevailing in 2009. James Hinchcliffe (2010) and J.R. Hildebrand (2009) won Firestone Indy Lights races on the circuit.

“Our group entered the process of becoming the Edmonton Indy’s new promoter in good faith,” Dumontier said. “We returned from the July race with enthusiasm and confidence, and until last Friday had all intentions to promote a spectacular Edmonton Indy for 2011 and many years to come. We wish to thank all the Western Canadian racing fans and the Edmontonians who warmly welcomed us and offered their support in the last few months.”

source http://www.indycar.com

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