Promoter promises best Edmonton Indy since '05

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:22 PM ET

The rebirth of the Edmonton Indy could be a beautiful thing to behold as the flight of this Phoenix takes off from a different runway.

Now that the major-league auto race is finally back on the IZOD IndyCar schedule, consider the possibility that it could have been worth the embarrassment, the humiliation and the angst of losing the city’s signature summer sports event over a mere $3-million paving bill.

Now is time to contemplate the idea that the race is likely to return better than it was before Northlands ran it off course.

“The fans are going to be just crazy when we come out there and reveal the design of the new track,” said Francois Dumontier, president of Octane Motorsports Events Inc. “We are now going to be able to build and design a track that is exceptionally exciting and bring the grandstands and the fans much closer to the action.

“The first thing I noticed when I was here for the race last year was how far the fans were from the cars. I totally understand why. It was a working airport on that runway. Now, moving to the eastern runway, which has been closed, gives us all sorts of freedom to design the exact footprint we want.

“Starting with a clean sheet to design a new track without having to deal with airport rules, I think we can build a footprint which will put the stands and the fans as close as they are in Montreal,” said the promoter of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Dumontier said that while the move entails using a different corner of the race track, the intention is to design it so the skyline of downtown Edmonton remains prominent as a backdrop for international TV coverage.

“For sure, that’s a feature we’re going to be able to keep,” he said.

“We believe we’ll be able to offer Edmontonians and Western Canadians the very best motorsports spectacle they’ve seen since 2005,” he said of the ballistic beginnings here in the ChampCar Series era.

In 2005 there were 78,080 at the airport track on race day with a three-day attendance figure of 200,050, which broke the record of 172,000 from the previous best-attended Indy race in Canada. In all of Champ Car history — 24 years of the Indy in Toronto, 15 in Vancouver and three in Montreal, Edmonton’s series debut beat them all.

“This is our goal. We think we can make every year like that year. What we do for a living is promote auto racing. It’s the only thing we do,” said Dumontier in announcing Octane at long last completed negotiations with the City of Edmonton and put together a new three-year sanctioning deal with IndyCar to return this year on the July 22-23-24 weekend.

“We’re going to have to work double shifts the next seven months, but in the end I think everything that’s happened here can be turned into positives.

“We saw that the business community and the fans were behind this event. City hall received some major pressure from the community when the race was lost back in November.

“It took more time than expected to confirm its return,” he said of the lawyering.

Octane managed to sign a sanctioning fee with IndyCar at a significantly lower rate than the one Northlands previously negotiated.

“There’s a major difference between the one we have now and the one previous,” said the Octane president, who hopes to reveal the new footprint for the track and stands, and come to Edmonton to hold a press conference and put tickets on sale, in early February.

Keep in mind that the guy is a promoter and is coming out of the gate promoting. But he says there are positives everywhere he looks.

“I think it’s even going to turn into a positive that Edmonton lost this race for a few months. Getting it back should have a positive effect on making it successful.”

Lorna Rosen, the chief financial officer who bungled the whole business on behalf of City Council in the first place, put it another way.

“Sometimes when a crisis happens, people understand how much something means to them and how far they’re willing to go to ensure that it’s kept.”

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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