I drove into Toronto along Lake Shore Blvd. this morning and, as happens every year, my heart started beating a little faster around the Ex at the sight of construction equipment building the track for the Honda Indy, which - as of this morning - is exactly 15 sleeps away.
That’s 15 sleeps until Free Friday; 17 until the day of the race, which is Sunday, July 10.
And the news yesterday that Dan Aykroyd will act as Grand Marshal is terrific and adds to the buildup toward the 25th anniversary event. Although the press releases all said he was an Ottawa native, let me tell you today that he’s now (as Don Cherry would say) a “good Kingston boy” and has been for years.
Anyway, my euphoria at seeing things taking shape in T.O. was tempered somewhat by the storm clouds I see gathering around two other major North American motorsport events, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Montreal at the end of August and the proposed 2012 U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Tex., both of which today have their hands out.
Whether governments agree to pony up or not will determine their futures.
According to a story on the RDS web site, governments (both provincial and federal) have promised a response some time this week (possibly today) to a request from International Speedway Corp, promoters of the Nationwide race, for a contribution of either $500,000 or $1 million to help bring down a deficit that currently sits at or about $1.6 million.
The suggestion is that if the request is not met, the Aug. 20 event this year could be the last.
Ottawa’s contribution, according to the story, would depend on whether the province decides to kick something in.
As we all know, the federal and provincial governments and Montreal tourism organizations subsidize the Grand Prix of Canada in June every year to the tune of $15 million. Whether they will be interested in propping up the stock car races – and every seat that’s erected is sold, by the way, making it a very popular event – remains to be seen.
The contract between International Speedway Corp. and the city of Montreal expires June 30, hence the rush to judgment.
FYI: the Ontario government grants the Toronto Indy $1 million each year. Ottawa put up more than $700,000 this year in a matching grant for new walls for the event.
Meantime, the proposed F1 race in Texas is on shaky ground. All sorts of questions are being asked about public money going toward the event. Just yesterday, a lawsuit was filed to prevent the city from using any public funds for the race.
Wrote Autoweek F1 reporter Adam Cooper:
“The plaintiffs filed their case to prevent race promoters from using $25 million from the Texas Major Event Trust Fund to finance the inaugural event, scheduled for June 2012.
“The plaintiffs filed the suit one day before the Austin City Council is scheduled to vote (that’s tonight) on whether or not to officially endorse the race, something promoters need in order to have access to the state’s Major Event Trust Fund money. Promoters need that money to pay F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s estimated $25 million (or perhaps larger) fee Austin promoters are being charged to host the F1 event.
“The suit claims that it seeks to prevent "the unlawful plunder of public funds for promoters of a Formula One race at a time when the State of Texas claims it cannot afford to adequately fund essential services, such as its public education system."
“One of the plaintiffs is a teacher who lost her job in a recent round of budget cuts.
“Access to the $25 million has been a key element of the project from its beginning.”
With Bernie and F1, it’s all about the money. The spectacle and the sport be damned.
This race will undoubtedly fail because of things like this lawsuit. And even if it gets some sort of go-ahead, it will likely miss some deadline or another and the track won’t be finished and the race will have to be put off for a year and, etc., etc., etc., and it will be the U.S. F1 debacle all over again.
Time and again, F1 says it has to get back to the United States. Well, if it really wanted to, it could.
There’s a perfectly wonderful facility sitting in Indianapolis, Ind., that could host a U.S. Grand Prix tomorrow.
But F1 won’t go there because $25 million is too rich for Indy to cough up and the “beautiful people” of F1 consider Indianapolis to be a hick town.
F1 wants its cake and to eat it, too. But it can't have it both ways and until it comes to terms with that, it will never race in the U.S.