Brazilian organizers say IndyCar opener has been canceled

AP News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2015 9:00 PM

SAO PAULO (AP) — The IndyCar Series opener scheduled for March in Brazil's capital was canceled on Thursday.

The television network promoting the event released a brief statement saying the decision was made "unilaterally" by the local government in Brasilia.

Band TV did not provide any additional details, calling it a "hasty" decision by the government.

Brasilia officials did not immediately announce their reasons for the cancellation, but local media said the government determined that the event did not make sense financially. Local prosecutors and government watchdog groups had already warned about the financial challenges of the contract that had been signed by the previous administration.

"Band will inform in the next few days how those who have bought tickets will be reimbursed. The network laments this hasty decision," the statement said.

IndyCar said two-thirds of the tickets and all hospitality packages for the March 8 race at the Nelson Piquet Autodromo had already been sold. A deal with a title sponsor had been announced on Wednesday.

After what it called an "unexpected" decision, IndyCar officials said they had "every indication that the race was already a success."

"This comes as a great disappointment," IndyCar said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "We will have further comment when we have had the opportunity to talk with all of our partners and the authorities in Brazil."

The series said it was waiting for "formal confirmation from our partners in Brazil regarding the cancellation."

"Economically IndyCar is protected and the paddock is protected from such action," IndyCar said.

The government agency organizing the event in Brasilia could not be immediately reached for comment.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves said he was "caught by surprise" by the announcement.

"To my knowledge, everything was OK," the Brazilian said in a statement. "It's a shame that the race has been canceled. I hope that a solution to this problem can be found in the future. I'm sorry for the fans, but things like these are beyond the control of teams and drivers."

On Tuesday, fellow driver Tony Kanaan said he had high expectations for his home race.

"To me, it means a lot," the 2013 Indy 500 champion said. "All my friends are there, it's a dream come true again."

Band was the Brazilian organizer and promoter of the race in Sao Paulo from 2010-2013. The network was not able to secure the event in 2014 because of financial problems, but it reached a partnership with the government in Brasilia to secure the series' return this year.

The now-defunct CART series was in Brazil from 1996-2000, with a race on an oval track in Rio de Janeiro. The race in Sao Paulo was held on a street course, and the one in Brasilia was going to take place on a permanent circuit. Work at the track was almost finalized, according to organizers.

The contract for the race in Brasilia was to run until 2019.

Motorsport is popular in Brazil, and IndyCar and Formula One attract good crowds. The F1 race takes place at the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo.

Brasilia also was scheduled to host a MotoGP race in 2015 but the event was canceled.

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AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in North Carolina contributed to this report.

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