Edmonton just black-flagged itself.
There will be no Honda Indy Edmonton in July.
In a situation which will result in the city getting a by far bigger black eye than if Edmonton had simply decided to drop IndyCar racing in the summer, the event has suddenly been dropped from the schedule due to what appears to be some decidedly dirty dealing.
The good name of the city as being a host with the most is going to be severely damaged when Octane and the Indy Racing League tell their stories of how Edmonton lost it’s auto race, leaving the IndyCar Series without a race on a contracted prime date in late July.
Despite the City of Edmonton doing a deal with the Octane Racing Group of Montreal — reached at the ridiculously late date of Honda Indy Edmonton race week last year — the plug has been pulled on the event because of an unworkable after-the-fact proposition to change the runway for the downtown airport race according to an Octane source.
According to both Octane and Indy Racing League, the whole deal blew up because the City of Edmonton decided to change the not only the runway but the deal.
Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL’s commercial division, who stood up with Octane boss Francois Dumontier and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel making the grand announcement in July said the city essentially added $2-$3 million in paving costs to Octane to switch runways after they did the deal.
That figure was said to be accurate by an Octane source.
“In doing the deal they had never intended to put any money in to improving the track. That was certainly an incredible curve ball to them,” said Agnstadt.
“It’s a tremendous disappointment to us and to be quite frank, not very good for our business.
“It’s just too bad. We had a big announcement in Edmonton to announce we were going forward to the future. There was a lot of excitement with Octane being welcomed to run the race. We have tremendous respect for Octane.
“We were going to continue to bring our show to Edmonton. We loved coming there. It was an excellent event with very good attendance and atmosphere. And to have an event drop out, especially at this late date when it’s almost impossible to replace, it’s both shocking an exceptionally disappointing.”
While there was some suggestion in some quarters Tuesday night that Octane would look at trying to find another way to promote a race here in 2012 and 2013 at a different venue, Angstadt suggested Edmonton not hold its breath.
“After what happened here, I don’t think Edmonton would be terribly high on our list,” he said.
“We think we got caught in the stupid fight about the airport,” the highly placed Octane source told the Edmonton Sun Tuesday.
The source said the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal said a switch in runways to hold the race without willingness to spend a single cent to make it possible resulted in Octane walking away from the contract.
Octane president Francois Dumontier is expected to make a strong statement at the same time as the planned press conference.
“They asked us to move the race to another runway. They said they decided to keep the West runway on which the race has previously been held open and wanted to move the race to the East runway which has been closed,” said the Octane source.
“We brought Bruno Savard, our engineer, to Edmonton and met with the airport people and the city people and were more than willing to consider moving the race to a different runway.
“It looked good. It looked like we could do something.
“We had a plan to open our office in Edmonton in September and put our tickets on sale long before Christmas. So we put an Oct. 28 deadline on getting it all worked out.
“We worked out a track design and set-up that we thought would work. It was obvious there would have to put some pavement down on some areas of the track and more pavement on the lawn to set up a new paddock.
“They came back to us and said they didn’t like the costs, that there would have to be some savings. We went back and looked at it and couldn’t find any savings.
Someone was brought in from the airport, he said, “and he made drawings of a track that were insulting and just didn’t make any sense.
“They eventually told us they were only interested in using existing pavement and not spending any money to make the switch.
“We asked them ‘Why didn’t they tell us when we negotiated the deal in good faith? We are serious people.
“They told us that the decision for having the Eastern runway shut down was taken early in the year. We said it was never part of the negotiation for the deal. It was negotiated to be held in the same place it’s been held every year to this point.
“As far as Octane is concerned, we’d made an agreement to come here when they asked us to move to another house, which we agreed to look at, but they insisted we’d have to pay for a new floor in the other house.”