Thanks to an infusion of money from the state, the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is a reality.
Local officials along with IndyCar President Mark Miles announced Wednesday that the inaugural event will be held the weekend of April 10-12, 2015 at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale.
The New Orleans Advocate has been named as the official newspaper of the race. The race is a part of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“This is the next big tourism win for Louisiana,” Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose culture and tourism office is providing the $4.5 million, said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Race fans are passionate about their sport
“Once they experience our authentic culture, food and music during this event, they will fall in love with Louisiana.”
The bulk of the state’s contribution, $2.8 million, is to be used for improvements to the existing track infrastructure to bring it up to racing standards and temporary grandstands seating for 15,000-25,000. The rest goes for marketing plus licensing from IndyCar,
In return for the state’s seed money, there is a three-year commitment from NOLA Motorsports and IndyCar for the event, the centerpiece of which is the IndyCar series race for open-wheel racers on NOLA Motorsports’ 13-turn, 2.75-mile road course.
The Grand Prix of Louisiana is one of 17 or 18 IndyCar series races in which drivers accumulate points towards the season championship. The 2014 will be determined in this weekend’s MAVTV 500 in Fontana, California.
The series usually begins in March, which means the New Orleans event probably will be the second of the season. The full schedule will be announced in September.
“This is a major, meaningful event, not just some exhibition or satellite event,” said Tim Ramsberger, the recently named general manager for the Grand Prix of Louisiana. “The top drivers in our sport are going to be here, and they’re going to love this track.”
That, Ramsberger added, is because that the setup will be wide enough for passing while also demanding skills beyond pure speed, although the competitors will reach 170 miles-per-hour in the straightway.
“You don’t want a race that looks like a parade and you don’t want one where you just go fast,” said Ramsberger. “Drivers will have to hit their marks on the apex of certain turns after coming into them fully accelerated, then breaking and reaccelerating after the turn.
“More than anything else, drivers want competitive tracks. This is going to be a phenomenal one.”
For the past 10 years, Ramsberger has been the general manager of Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first street course race for IndyCars. He is vice-president of Andretti Sports Marketing, which is producing the event for NOLA Motorsports.
While Ramsberger and Andretti Sports Marketing is responsible for the actual racing, NOLA Motor Host Committee Inc., a nonprofit created to manage the state funding, will handle the off-track events including abundant food and entertainment opportunities, including the facility’s go-cart track.
Kristen Engeron, president of the committee and NOLA Motorsports said evening concerts featuring name entertainers are a strong possibility. The Grand Prix of Louisiana falls the same weekend as the French Quarter festival.
“We see this as a game-changer for local sports in the way the Zurich Classic is for golf,” she said. “Nobody does hospitality and festivals like we do, bar none.
“This will be drawing race fans from Houston to Pensacola, plus our local fans. People will be enjoying themselves on several different levels.”
Engeron added that presale ticket opportunities will be presented in October with the actual ticket sales beginning the following month.
“The Indianapolis 500 remains the greatest single-day spectacle in motorsports,” Ramsberger said. “This event is bringing that level of competition to Louisiana where it can be enjoyed up close.”