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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Honda Indy Edmonton Dead; IndyCar Seeking Replacement

For the past six years, the Edmonton City Centre Airport has played host to a major North American open wheel race.

No longer.

The city of Edmonton and Octane Motorsports Group, the event's new promoter, were unable to reach important agreements regarding the payment of $3.2 million CDN to help repave a closed runway that would be included in a new course layout in 2011. As such, the Honda Indy Edmonton, one of two Canadian events on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, has been cancelled outright for 2011.

The old course was rendered impossible to use for 2011 after the city shifted air traffic to a different set of runways late this year. To maintain the old course would be to shut down all air traffic in Edmonton for the entire race weekend, which was set to run July 22-24.

This year's event, run on July 25, ended in controversy when Helio Castroneves was penalized for blocking in the race's final laps. The stewards' call handed the race to Scott Dixon. Meanwhile, an irate Castroneves grabbed IndyCar security chief Charles Burns by the collar, drawing a $60,000 fine for his actions.

Octane was set to promote the event from 2011 to 2013 after a city council vote earlier this year. They took over race promotion from Northlands, under whom the event lost millions of dollars every year. Octane entered IndyCar with a strong background, as the Montreal-based group currently promotes the Formula 1 and NASCAR events at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

Octane officials will meet with IndyCar officials next week with the intent of establishing another western Canadian race. Previously, the group had been looking to expand into Calgary in 2012; currently, there is no word on whether they will attempt to make good on that promise a year early.

The intent remains to have two Canadian events on the schedule for 2011, and to utilize the now-open July 24 weekend. If another western Canadian event is not established, the Montreal circuit, which is open that weekend and once hosted a Champ Car event, is a possibility. Circuit Mont-Tremblant has also hosted Champ Car racing and could be an option.

Meanwhile, politicians in Quebec City have also been keen on hosting an IndyCar race through the lower part of the city. The original target date had been 2012, but with the opening city politicians may look to accelerate their plans.

If another Canadian event is not established, IndyCar may look to race venues that had been considered for the 2012 schedule. In particular, series brass has discussed resurrecting former Champ Car events in Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, and Road America.

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