Can future of Aussie GP be secured?

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The current contract on Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park runs through the 2015 season, but talks toward making the event a long-term stop on the F1 calendar may be getting underway soon.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun reports that Denis Napthine, the new premier of the state of Victoria, is ready to speak with Formula One officials about a new deal for the race. According to his spokesman, Napthine will meet with said officials during the lead-up to the Grand Prix.

This comes on the heels of Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone telling the Herald Sun late last month that he wanted to keep Melbourne on the schedule for another 50 years.

“We get proposals from other parts, but we’re happy in Melbourne,” he told the Herald Sun’s Peter Rolfe in a Feb. 27 article. “Everybody loves Australia and loves Australian people, and it’s good to be there…and Melbourne, in itself, is a nice place.”

The race is a well-regarded part of the calendar, but a very costly one as well; the price tag for last year’s Aussie GP broke the $50 million mark. With that said, the race has certainly raised Melbourne’s global stature — and at least some believe that it has been worth the cost.

“You can, of course, argue that $57 million last year and likely rising again this year is not the best use of public money. But the greater argument is that it is an important and cost-effective investment in maintaining Melbourne’s international brand,” wrote Mark Fogarty of Melbourne’s The Age on Feb. 24.

“Forget claims of direct economic benefits derived from spending by visitors. What the Grand Prix at Albert Park does is promote Melbourne to the world, further reinforcing its visibility and status as a sporting and cultural [center].”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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