The Gold Coast Indy 300 is an American open wheel motor race event that takes place each year on a street circuit at Surfers Paradise, an eastern beach-side suburb of Gold Coast city in south east Queensland, Australia. It was known as the Lexmark Indy 300 until after the 2007 race. The challenging 4.47 kilometre track has several fast sections and four chicanes.
This has been an annual event since 1991 originally as part of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) IndyCar World Series. Then, following the split between CART and the newly formed Indy Racing League (IRL) in 1996 and the subsequent dissolution of CART in 2003, as part of the Champ Car World Series. Following the merger of the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series in February 2008 the future of race has been secured until 2013 as an IRL IndyCar Series event.
In the first sixteen years of the event, there were sixteen different winners. In 2007 Sébastien Bourdais became the first driver to win the race twice, adding to his 2005 victory.
The weekend events include a number of Australian racing categories in support of the international Champ Car race. This has often included V8 Supercars and the Carrera Cup. Since 2002, the Gold Coast race has counted for points in the V8 Supercar championship. The inaugural IRL race will not count towards its series title and will stand as a demonstration event.
The races early years were dogged by controversy as Australia's motor sport governing body the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) initially refused to sanction the event. The Queensland State Government has been largely supportive of the event while the Gold Coast City Council support at local level has varied in its level of support, even occasionally openly hostile to the event. However by the late 1990's the race had become a well attended and popular event on the Gold Coast calendar with tens of thousands of spectators attending each of the four days of the IndyCarnival.
In the 2002 event there was a frightening incident when a 9 car pile-up occurred at the start in very wet conditions - however no significant injuries were sustained. In 2003 a massive hailstorm struck the area during the race leading to a red flag. Again no injuries were sustained.
The event lost much of its lustre from 2004 as the split between American open wheel racing series started to draw teams from the Champ Car World Series across to the IRL IndyCar Series whose calendar was considerably more domestic than the well travelled Champ Car World Series. The falling popularity of open wheel racing in America has further devalued the event in recent times with NASCAR dominating the U.S. racing scene to the point where the growing influence of support category V8 Supercar removed Champ Car from top billing of the event into an equal top billing not seen at any other Champ Car event. Traditionally the CART/Champ Car race was the final event of the programme but in recent years the final V8 race has held this place.
On March 5 2008 it was announced that the IRL IndyCar Series will travel to Australia for the first time, but due to contractural issues the race will not count towards the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship and will be a stand-alone demonstration event, in light of the recent merger between Champ Car and the IRL.. A contract extension has been signed between the IRL and the promoters to continue the race until 2013 [].
The construction of the Gold Coast circuit has been acclaimed internationally and is used as a benchmark for new temporary street circuits world-wide. Over a full 12-month period plans are laid and then implemented to transform a bustling residential, commercial and holiday destination into a temporary street circuit capable of facilitating high-speed motor races and hundreds of thousands of people.
In a two-month period leading up to the event, seven bridges are erected, 2515 concrete barriers installed, 11,500 grandstand seats fastened, more than 140 corporate suites furnished, 10km of debris fencing and 16km of security fencing placed, many more temporary structures fitted, and large-scale power and telecommunications systems activated.
The Indy 300 street circuit is also an international leader in motor racing safety standards applauded by CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport) and the FIA (the international governing body of motorsport). One of the major advancements over the past few years has been an increase in double height debris fencing including an additional 610 panels in high impact areas in 2005.
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