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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.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).