EDMONTON - All the warning signs were there.
Going into this summer’s Edmonton Indy, it was there to see that Octane Motorsports Events was about to get out as promoter.
You can’t run an event in Edmonton out of Montreal, especially if you can’t connect with the city and especially if you’re an alledged promoter who won’t spend any money to promote.
More than anything the long distance arrogance of Octane CEO Francois Dumontier left Edmonton’s corporate community so cold, they refused to write big cheques to an outfit in Quebec which refused to have any meaningful tentacles tied to the town.
And at least one person in Edmonton read them right.
Colin Livingston pointed out, on the record, all the warning signs to your correspondent a week before the race in July.
Livingston, owner of CanTorque, a business based in Edmonton, said what he was seeing bothered him greatly.
“There has been a great neglect in the marketing, promotion of the race is even worse than Northlands,” he said.
“This year, specifically, it looks like they are trying to run the race for free. There appears to be next to no budget for promotion or marketing of this thing. They just operate the race. And they do a great job running the race. But my concern is there’s not going to be a race left here to operate.”
Livingston described himself as a “very active sponsor — we put money and our support into Alex Tagliani in IndyCar, Stefan Radzinski in the Star Mazda series and James Van Domselaar Jr. in the Canadian Tire NASCAR Series. We buy a 50-seat suite and 100 tickets in the grandstands for the three days.”
Perry Nelson, a world class auto racing photographer based out of Edmonton, had his contract to shoot this year’s race for Octane canceled on Monday of race week.
“I knew there was something up right then. That meant only one thing to me. If you don’t need photos of this year’s race, that told me you don’t plan on being here next year,” he said.
Despite the signs of cost cuts in several areas and the perceived lack of promotion prior to the race — Octane paid for only one driver, for example, to come in for pre-race promotion this year, Simona de Silvestro — Dumontier said there would be a 2013 Edmonton Indy.
“It is not a factor. We have one more year on our contract with the City of Edmonton and we’re going to be there.”
Dumontier made a big deal of using the Canadian Grand Prix model of putting tickets for sale for this year’s race at last year’s race and having a whole year to sell them.
You may have noticed.
Tickets for next year’s race were never put on sale.
It just didn’t feel right.
There was once again no title sponsor and virtually no sponsorship signs around the track.
The problem with Dumontier and Octane, Edmonton discovered, is that they produce a great race as they prove every year with the Canadian Grand Prix and these past two years in Edmonton. Producing races is their business. But promoting is a different deal. That’s not really their game.
When Dumontier took over the Edmonton race, he moved employee Anne Roy into the position of general manager but didn’t move her to Edmonton for anything more than visits from Montreal. But despite pleas from her to make it a full-time, year-round position with a full-time staff in Edmonton, Dumontier refused. The arrogant attitude reduced her to tears on more than one occasion. She knew exactly what kind of treatment the Edmonton corporate community required to buy in.
Dumontier kept telling this columnist “all the expertise is in Montreal.”
Ike Janasek was hired last spring to replace the totally capable Roy. He had very little power or authority and didn’t even have an office until June.
Lorna Rosen from city administration said it’s over, that the city is now going to walk away from the $22 million the city invested on the race, including $3 million two years ago to build a new track. She admitted the race brought an $80-million impact.
“Despite efforts ... we were not able to make this event profitable,” was the canned quote from Octane.
I’m not going to lament the loss of IndyCar racing here, despite the fact Rosen says the city won’t seek another promoter.
IndyCar, I was told was looking at putting two races here next year. One going in one direction. Another going the other.
IndyCar loves this event, having events in Canada and a race in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of their better events.
My expectation is that there will be promoters like Michael Andretti who promoted the recent Baltimore race or Kevin Savoree who promoted the Honda Toronto Indy.
I’ll bet they’ll offer to promote and produce the race for the same money the city was paying Octane.
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