A1GP’s season five debut race in Australia is not going ahead after organisers of the country’s SuperGP at Surfers Paradise terminated its contract in the absence of sufficient assurances that it would make the start line.
Legal and financial problems which have dogged the series throughout the winter seemed to have been resolved in time for the event, with its boss Tony Teixeira claiming he had secured sufficient investment to pay debts to suppliers, hand over deposits against future costs and put A1GP on a sound financial footing for the next four years.
In the face of growing scepticism from the Australian press and Queensland regional government, which backed the race financially, Teixeira and his staff made personal assurances that the series could pay its bills, get its impounded cars released and fly out to the country in time for next weekend’s event.
Their protestations of good faith appeared to be backed up with with hard evidence such as deposits on hotel rooms and other signs that the series finally had money to spend.
But it was not to be. In the last 48 hours the race organisers have lost patience and terminated the five-year race contract. This is a terrible blow for both the series and the race, which has already survived the withdrawal of a title sponsor and the decision of US open-wheelers to cease racing there.
It will still go ahead with a rejigged programme of V8 supercars – in all honesty the main attraction for the Australian fans that flock to the popular event.
It is the second time in two years that the first race of the A1GP season has been cancelled. Last year a tie-in with Ferrari was due to be celebrated with a launch at the Mugello circuit but chassis manufacturing problems meant its cars could not be readied in time.
Teixeira said in a statement confirming the move: “I want to personally apologise to the people affected by this regrettable but unavoidable decision.
“The Queensland Government, Gold Coast Motor Events Co, the management and Chairman of the event have been patient and supportive of us in the past weeks.
“We were proud to be part of what has become one of the world’s most iconic motorsport events, and are devastated at the decision we have had to make.
“We also know the Australian motorsport fans are very protective of this event and had welcomed us with open arms. To them I also apologise and stress that we wanted to put on a show for them that they would never forget.”
He says that A1GP will refund its fee as well as donating AUS $50,000 to a charity designated of the organisers’ choice. Contractors engaged directly by A1GP who have already incurred expenses on its behalf will be fully reimbursed.
The statement goes on to explain that one effect of the UK operating arm of the series going into liquidation in June “was that access to the cars and the ability to pay its suppliers has been impeded”.
It says that what should have been a summer upgrading the machinery in time for the first race of the 2009/10 season “has turned into a frustrating time for achieving this”.
But Teixeira is not yet ready to call time on the World Cup of Motorsport.
He concluded by saying: “We have recently announced 19 teams who were ready to race in Australia. I know they are still committed to racing in our unique series that pits nation versus nation.
“A1GP may be down, but I do not accept we are out. We have had four exciting seasons that have proved we are a force in the sport and now we shall consolidate on what we have achieved to date.
“My efforts will be on finding a way forward with the support of some very loyal people.”
Many fans will be hoping that this is a promise on which he can deliver. The next race is scheduled to take place in Zhuhai, China, on the weekend of November 15.