Ron Walker, the chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) has made an emergency trip to Abu Dhabi to prevent further escalation of a dispute that threatens the very future of the 2011 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Walkers claims that the country’s official motor racing body, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), is demanding $800,000 in fees to officially sanction the event at the Albert Park circuit.
Should the AGPC refuse to pay, Walker claims that CAMS has threatened to recommend to the FIA World Motor Sport Council that Australia be deleted from next year’s schedule.
The situation apparently follows the Victorian state government’s request that the organisation of the event be put to tender, citing the apparent “monopoly” that CAMS holds on all motorsport events in Australia.
“We will not sign a new contract with CAMS unless they modernise their management and reduce their prices,” Walker told the Australian Associated Press news agency.
“‘You (must) re-hire us on our terms or we will apply to the FIA to have you removed from the calendar’,” is what Walker claims to have been told by CAMS.
Walker has flown to Abu Dhabi for crisis talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, whose position is that CAMS remains as the event’s sanctioning body while a separate organiser is appointed to run the Grand Prix itself. It is believed that Ecclestone has mooted the idea of the British Grand Prix organisers being appointed to fulfil the role.
Last year’s Australian Grand Prix posted a record $50 million loss according to the financial reports following the event, with the bill being picked up by the Victorian tax payers.