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Aussies baulk at push for night F1 GP

india Updated: Mar 28, 2009 13:05 IST
Aussies baulk at push for night F1 GP

The state of Victoria has refused to budge from its opposition to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone's push for a night Australian Grand Prix, reports said on Saturday.

Amid dwindling crowds here this weekend, Ecclestone has urged race organisers to switch to a race under floodlights around the Albert Park street circuit to suit European television audiences.

Organisers have offered a compromise and will start this year's Melbourne race at 5:00pm local time, but have refused to follow Singapore's lead and stage a night GP.

"Let's see how this twilight event goes. Let's have a good look at it," Ecclestone told local radio on Friday.

"Maybe (Australian race boss) Ron Walker then will have a look at it and think 'My God' and it may suit him from a marketing point."

But the Victorian state government, which financially backs the Melbourne race now in its 14th year, is adamant a night race is out of the question.

"I'm not sure how many different times and ways we can rule out a night GP," government spokesman Luke Enright told Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper on Saturday.

Last July Melbourne clinched a new agreement to run the event until 2015 under a five-year licence extension, the terms of which remain confidential, including the staging fee paid to Ecclestone.

The Australian GP has consistently lost money since its switch to Melbourne from Adelaide in 1996.

Government figures show it cost taxpayers 34 million dollars (23.7 million US) in 2007 and about 40 million (27.9 million US) last year.

Amid the fallout from the global financial downturn and the start of the immensely-popular Australian football season this weekend, crowds have been down at Albert Park, just a couple of kilometres (miles) south of the city.

Thursday's first-day turnout of just 42,300 was the smallest yet -- less than half the size of the crowd for a local football game that night -- while Friday's second day when the F1 cars took to the track attracted 7,000 fewer fans than last year at 64,000.

"I think it's the economic times and some discretionary spending by families. But we were only down by a couple of thousand, so it's hardly worth talking about," Walker told the Herald-Sun.