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Beanbags key to Australian GP success?

NEWS STORY
25/04/2012

Mat Coch writes:

Attendance figures for this year's Australian Grand Prix were up on those from 2011 by more than 5%. There was more to do this year, and more to see. V8 Supercars were back on the support schedule, a key factor in making any Australian motor racing event successful, while a grandstand in the circuit's centre overlooked a motorcycle stunt show. There were a number of interactive exhibits to entertain the fans and the dancing girls were popular as usual, if not interactive in the family sense of the word.

The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has now suggested that the increase in attendance was not down to the extracurricular activities on offer. It wasn't even because of the fact Australia had two of its own on the gird for the first time. No, the AGPC suggests what really brought the punters in was the ability to pay a little extra to sit on a bean bag while drinking beer.

Over the weekend, as I travelled back and forth from the circuit, I was forced to walk from the paddock past Turn 15 towards the only gate left open for a weary journo on Fitzroy Street. It was a trek which meant traversing poorly lit roads, dirt paths, muddy banks and inquisitive security guards.

Atop one of those muddy knolls was what I assumed at the time to be a corporate area, though I've since learned it was in fact Albert Park's secret weapon.

It featured a small bar and some novel looking seats and, if memory serves, a canopy style roof covering part of it. It was not a large area, not one that could host 15,000 people, and looked only marginally more attractive than the wet grass on either side. The success of the Australian Grand Prix was therefore a decision between fans having wet backside or a hangover.

"General admission patrons could pay a premium on their ticket and receive A-grade viewing at Turn 15 including bean bags, deck chairs and their own bar… That's what drove attendance, and it was the best we've had since 2005," Andrew Westacott, chief executive of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation has gone on record as saying. And here was I thinking it was a semi-exposed muddy embankment overlooking the penultimate corner, hardly what one would describe as 'A-grade viewing'.

Westacott's comments are optimistic in the extreme and misguided at best. I suspect I'm not the only one to have raised an eyebrow at his remarks, and am left to wonder just what was said in the corridors of power at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. I suspect it no longer has a surplus of the free ear plugs it so readily distributed over the Grand Prix weekend.

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