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NOVEMBER 14, 2006

Melbourne struggles to convince Aussie media

The Australian Grand Prix will rely more heavily than ever on Formula 1 cars next year after failing to do a deal to run an event for FIA European GT3 cars. The organisers say that they intend to ramp up promotion for the Celebrity Challenge and that there will be support races with local Porsches, Formula 3 and V8 Utes (trucks built specially for racing). The race is hoping to reverse the 15% drop in crowd numbers it suffered last year but without the local V8s that may be tough. Things will not be helped by the fact that the V8s are having one of their biggest races of the year - the Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide - just two weeks before the Grand Prix.

Australian GP chief executive Tim Bamford told the Australian media yesterday that the event will as always offer "four fantastic days of entertainment".

Mark Webber said that the race would be fine without the V8s

"The V8s are a great category, no question about it," he said, "but the event is big enough and strong enough."

During the press conference Bamford was asked whether he was joking when he said that the event would still be great without the V8s and without Michael Schumacher but he argued that Schumacher's retirement was an opportunity for F1 rather than something negative.