EDMONTON - The vast nothingness of the closed northeast corner of the downtown airport out the window behind him, Francois Dumontier sat in the empty but soon-to-open new offices of the Edmonton Indy.
Three months to the day from when the gates would be open on a new track to begin a new IndyCar future here, it was impossible to imagine or picture any of it.
The president of Octane Motorsports Events Inc. was here to put additional pieces together for the new track, located on the closed runway in the opposite corner of the airport to where the race has been held in the past.
Picture full grandstands, said Dumontier, the man who promotes and produces the F1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
“We are really satisfied with ticket sales so far. We have half of the two grandstands on Turn 1 sold already. Overall we’re over 40%. We cut off sales of track-side spaces for recreational vehicles when we hit 200 almost overnight. We were very surprised it went like that. We have a waiting list and we’re trying to look into how we can create more locations for RVs.”
Dumontier said he’s expecting to have to add to the original footprint — with six grandstand locations around the track — in the coming weeks as the track begins to take shape.
“I love working with temporary grandstands. You just keep adding rows and lengthening rows,” said the promoter.
“There’s a good feel out there. I’m feeling that more and more,” added Dumontier, who says he’s already been blown away by the volunteer culture he’s discovered here.
“I am very satisfied that the people of Edmonton are behind the event.”
Picture construction starting on a race track 10 days from now, he said.
“The paving tender will be awarded in the next few days. Once the paving is done, we need 30 days to get it all set up from there.” The paving has to be completed by June 6 to give it time to cure, he added.
Dumontier confirmed the event has lost Honda as title sponsor but said there are things happening on that front.
“Previous title sponsorships have been sold for amounts that were too low. We may have to hold this race to showcase the event to a title sponsor.
“I’m not interested in having a title sponsor if it’s not for three years and beyond. We haven’t had one since Air Canada in 2003 at the Canadian Grand Prix. But I’m pretty confident we will have one here. As for the other sponsors, we’ll get there. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there,” he said of about $2 million budgeted in addition to the support money from the City of Edmonton.
“We have a budget and I’m confident we’ll be there the first year.
“And I like what I’ve seen in the series so far. There have been three nice races. The side-by-side re-starts which are new this year are very exciting. We have three Canadians in the series again with Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy and rookie James Hinchcliffe having such a great debut,” he said of the young driver who finished fifth behind Tagliani in fourth at Long Beach last weekend.
“I like the situation we’re in,” said Dumontier.
Well, most of the situation.
“I have no doubts inside the fence,” he said of the show on site with announcements to come of added racing attractions and a beer garden and entertainment set-up which will be a dramatic upgrade.
“It’s the outside the fence aspect. We’re trying to get the bars and hotels involved to be a big part of it like they are in Montreal for our race and like in Daytona. To make it really work, it has to involve the whole city, not just the scene at the track.
“On that front we should be further ahead … a lot further ahead.”