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Report: Could IndyCar return to the Gold Coast in Australia?

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The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule features a number of welcome returns. Phoenix International Raceway was a decent return back in April, while Road America’s return last weekend was all sorts of warm and fuzzy. Watkins Glen International will have its chance on Labor Day weekend in September.

Could the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise in Australia, be next?

The Gold Coast Bulletin in Australia caught wind of some government talks that lock in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship – the series formerly known as V8 Supercars – through 2019 on the Gold Coast at the truncated Surfers Paradise street circuit.

And if a private consortium has its way, and can negotiate with the Supercars, IndyCars could return perhaps in 2017 with a greater likelihood in 2018.

“We are talking to TEQ and the US-based IndyCars,” a consortium spokesman told the Bulletin.

“All our concern at the moment is on securing the approval through government to hold the event with IndyCars as the major attraction — 2017 is a possibility, 2018 is more than possible,” the spokesman added.

INDYCAR later added a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“INDYCAR is in the process of investigating potential venues for the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, which includes a number of conversations with international parties interested in hosting an event. INDYCAR has an extended history at Surfers Paradise and many of its teams and drivers fondly recall the great events and large crowds in Australia. However, at this time, we are not going to comment on specifics as it pertains to the status of any prospective venue.”

IndyCar – in its prior guise as CART or Champ Car – raced points events at Surfers Paradise from 1991 through 2007. It ran in March through 1997 before shifting to October in 1998. The race only had one repeat winner in Sebastien Bourdais, who won in both 2005 and 2007.

In 2008, Surfers Paradise was added as part of the Champ Car-IndyCar merger but as a non-points race following that year’s season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Ryan Briscoe won it for Team Penske, the Australian driver thus becoming the only local to have won in his home country in any prior open-wheel running.

Australia still has a heavy presence in IndyCar with Will Power running full-time in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, while Matthew Brabham made his series debut in the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet throughout the month of May. Brabham has been a regular fixture at tracks this year even though he hasn’t been driving in every event.

Scott Dixon hails from New Zealand and only had the opportunity to race on the Gold Coast three times, in 2001 with PacWest Racing and in 2002 and 2008 with his current team, Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

A number of IndyCar stars also moonlighted in the Gold Coast 600 Supercars race as guest co-drivers within the last decade.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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