DRIVERS are backing a three-night Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic next year as Premier Speedway officials prepare to make an announcement about the race’s future as early as today.
Club general manager David Mills yesterday said no final decision had been made on whether the 2014 Classic would be a three-night event, with the impact on the traditional Friday night Kings Challenge in Mount Gambier remaining the stumbling block.
The club opened discussions with Mount Gambier’s Borderline officials late last year about the Classic becoming a Friday, Saturday and Sunday event from 2014, but Premier has been reluctant to jeopardise its strong and long-lasting good relationship with the South Australian counterpart.
Mills and club president Richard Parkinson met with Borderline officials on Monday night in Mount Gambier, where they argued the car count, which hit 102 for this weekend’s event, justified a third night. Borderline officials are reportedly not keen on losing their Friday night date because it would be difficult for the club’s volunteers to fulfil their roles around their work commitments at another time.
A strawpoll of several drivers yesterday had strong support for a three-night classic.
Former winner Trevor Green said the Classic had outgrown its two-night schedule and argued the event, now bigger than the famous Knoxville Nationals in Iowa, should become a four-night show, replicating the American format.
At a minimum, Green said the Classic needed to be three nights.
“I think it has to happen (expand). I have no doubt,” Green said.
“The Classic is the Classic because it is the Classic. The format the way it is is unique anywhere in the world with all those heat races.
“I would like to see it go to a four-day show exactly the same as Knoxville and then you can really ramp it up and pay $50,000 for the winner.”
Green said more and more drivers were finding a way into sprintcar racing because the costs hadn’t increased due to the rising Australian dollar.
“It’s just going to snowball,” Green said.
Two-time Australian champion James McFadden said Premier Speedway had to grow the Classic.
“With the amount of cars, I think they are going to have to do something. It’s outgrown the two days, which is good for the town,” he said.
But McFadden said Mount Gambier’s race had to be accommodated in the schedule and said he wouldn’t mind the week’s schedule being compressed, with Avalaon remaining on Wednesday and Mount Gambier moving to a Thursday, followed by the Classic.
Former national champ Robbie Farr said the Kings Challenge had to remain on the program, but he supported a longer Classic.
“I don’t think there is an option. It (three nights) is the way it should be with that car count,” Farr said.
“The Classic needs to continue to grow and we shouldn’t let anything stunt its growth. There has to be a way to extend it and keep Mount Gambier happy.”
But Warrnambool driver Darren Mollenoyux isn’t a fan of a three-night show.
“I don’t think they should do it. I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “I’d sooner see them do a little less racing instead of four rounds of heats or time trials.”
He feared the extra night would hurt fans in the hip-pocket.
“It’s a bit harder. You’ll have half the good cars one night, half the next. You’ve got to go to those nights and you’ve got to go to the third night. It’ll cost families an extra $100,” he said.