In Australia, they’re calling it the worst-kept secret in sport: A1GP, the self-styled World Cup of Motor Sport, is not coming to play in the sun and surf of the Gold Coast later this month.
In the end, the 19-day gap between the London court hearing at which the troubled series won back possession of its cars and the date on which they were supposed to race on the far side of the globe was just too short.
Recovering them from the transport company that had impounded them, cleaning the mice from the cockpits and the cobwebs from the Ferrari engines, making last-minute FIA-mandated safety changes and finally crating them up to fly them to Australia was too big a job.
And the result is that the expected triumph of A1GP’s highest-profile ever event has turned into a farce, leaving most observers convinced the series will simply collapse in the next few days, never to be heard from again.
But it might not end up that way.
A small point, largely overlooked, suggests that if everyone holds their nerve the Gold Coast fiasco might prove to be as survivable as the failure of last year’s planned opener at Mugello did.
A1GP has money again.
Sure, series boss Tony Teixeira said in September he’d secured enough funding to run the championship for three years – but British fans, accustomed to the endless assurances from Donington Park’s Simon Gillett, took that statement with a pinch of salt.
Wrongly, it seems. First, three Surfers Paradise resorts said they had received not just bookings from teams – but deposits too. Then, following the cancellation, Teixeira headed off demands that A1GP be sued for the return of its race fee by immediately promising to repay it in full, along with a AUS $50,000 charitable donation.
This is not the behaviour of a series on the verge of collapse – this is the behaviour of a series that pulled everything together just a fraction too late to get away with it. We strongly suspect that if the court hearing of October 6th had been held just a week earlier then A1GP would be racing at Surfers Paradise as planned.
So the situation at the moment, while a very, very long way from ideal, is not necessarily fatal either.
And this is the difference between A1GP and Donington. While Gillett and Teixeira seem like very similar characters – both bullish outsiders, a bit rough around the edges and a long way from the urbane smoothness of a Luca di Montezemolo – and both have spent the summer making reassuring noises about faltering projects, their prospects are not necessarily the same.
Gillett’s track record consists of a failed plan to develop a motorsport centre in Wales. Teixeira, by contrast, has actually served up four seasons of racing. Gillett promises the money for Donington will be there. Teixeira seems to actually have his, albeit too late to save his first race.
The next A1GP races are scheduled for Zhuhai in China on 15 November. Despite the cancellation in Australia, it’s far too early to bet the bank on their not happening.