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New deal for Melbourne... and no night race

NEWS STORY
15/06/2008

The Sunday Herald Sun reports that a new deal has been agreed which will see the Australian Grand Prix remain at Albert Park in Melbourne until 2015.

The Australian newspaper admits the agreement is "verbal", but claims the deal will be "signed off within days".

There were serious doubts as to the future of the race, both financial, and the demands from Bernie Ecclestone that the event be held at night, in order to be more viewer friendly in Europe, F1's heartland.

However, while the financial problems remain, with taxpayers having to pour and more money into an event which continues to lose money, organizers have agreed (verbally) to shift the race to a 17.00 start time.

According to the Sunday Herald Sun, "a senior government source" claims the deal is "imminent", saying: "We haven't signed the deal, but we're going to quite soon."

When demanding a night race - at one time he even suggested that a 1 am start would be nice - Ecclestone warned Melbourne that there were plenty of other countries queuing up for a chance to host a Grand Prix, with several other Australian cities in NSW, Queensland and South Australia also mentioned. However, Australian Grand Prix corporation boss Ron Walker, a close friend of Ecclestone, always insisted that Melbourne was safe.

Tourism and Major Events Minister Tim Holding has said the race will not start after dark, telling the Sunday Herald Sun: "We have ruled out a night Grand Prix and that is not negotiable.

"This is a good event for the state," he added. "It's one we want to keep and we'll be working hard to ensure that it does remain here in Melbourne in the years ahead."

Meanwhile, the government source claims that (Victoria Premier) John Brumby and Mr Ecclestone have reached a compromise. "They've come to an agreement," the source said.

For this year's event, race organizers, in a clear attempt to appease Ecclestone, moved the start time from 14.00 to 15.30, a last minute decision which caused widespread problems for many people involved in the event, Race marshals (all volunteers) found themselves having to take extra time off work and pay for an extra night in their hotels, not to mention changes to their travel itineraries. Nonetheless, Ecclestone insisted that if Melbourne were to retain the event an even later race start would be needed in 2009 and beyond.

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