Junior Open Wheel Talent

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The Future of the Rock Island Grand Prix…

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted June 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm Karting, Rock Island Grand Prix

The future of the Rock Island Grand Prix lies in the hands of would-be competitors, as the organizer’s of the world’s largest street race are considering and unthinkable decision… to cancel the race—due to lack of entries.

Labor Day weekend at the Rock makes for one of the best weekend’s of the year in my book. I’ve been both a spectator and a competitor at this great event and I would certainly hate to see it face an untimely demise. If you want to help out and take part in one of the year’s best kart races… make sure to get your entries in early. Your timeliness will affect the future. (see below)

Last year, I provided live coverage of the event and I hope to do so again this year.

You can register online …. HERE.
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The following is a press release from the Rock Island Grand Prix:

The following statement was released by the organizing committee of the Rock Island Grand Prix following its meeting on June 9, 2009:

The Rock Island Grand Prix, the world’s largest karting street race now celebrating its 15th season, is one of the most revered events in racing. It is produced each year by a not-for- profit organization. We are not a profit machine. Each year we plan to break even financially in an effort to keep costs to the racers as low as possible. Our goals are to produce high- quality racing and entertainment for competitors and bring people to downtown Rock Island, Illinois. The country’s recent financial situation, however, has now put the future of the event in question. Unexpected losses in 2008 (caused by the economy, high fuel prices and the loss of competitors and sponsors that resulted) ate up much of the event’s reserves. The 2008 event saw the lowest turnout of racers in its history. The 2009 budget was based on a further loss of sponsor support, some cuts in expenses and some minor increases in fees to racers. In the past, the event was able to rely on substantial sponsorship and small fluctuations in entries were not a concern. Some of those sponsors have been lost over the past 2 years and we have not been able to replace them due to the economy. This has left us much more dependent on competitor fees.

Historically, entries at the RIGP have ranged between 380 and 410. Last year entries dropped to 250 – the lowest in event history. The 2009 budget is based on attaining the same level of entries as in 2008. The business plan for the event does not allow for holding an event with less than 250 entries. So far entries for 2009 are running at roughly HALF the number that were registered at this time last year. The organizing committee of the RIGP has determined that if there are not at least 150 entries in hand by its next meeting on July 14, it will consider suspending the event for 2009 with no assurance that it will resume in the future. Even at 150 entries, the race may not be held if there is a belief that it will not attain an ultimate entry level of 250.

Should the organization ultimately decide to suspend the race in 2009, sufficient resources exist to pay for expenses which have already been contracted as well as return sponsor and competitor fees. No one will be out money. Entries received between now and mid-July will not be processed until a decision has been made to move forward. The Organizing Committee of the Rock Island Grand Prix is under the assumption that entries will pick up and the race will be held. We are moving forward based on that belief. But it is the feeling of the committee that if revenue projections cannot be met, it is better to suspend the event early before many competitors have finalized their plans, rather than at the last minute. The losses that would be sustained by meeting existing commitments would be far less devastating than going through with an event of this magnitude without adequate revenue.

Efforts have been made to encourage participation through contacts with many teams, importers, tracks and kart shops. To date those efforts have generated little participation. We also thank our friends at Ekartingnews.com, Ekartingnews.ca, Vroom.it, and National Kart News for their efforts to enhance our exposure in a tough year.

We understand that some racers must wait until the last minute to make decisions about whether or not they will race. We encourage those who can, to register soon so we can gauge the level of support we can expect. If you cannot commit at this time, but are planning to come, please let us know by email. That count is important too as we try to assess whether we can reach the ultimate goal of 250 entries. It is our hope that by stating this position early, the karting community will have time to respond so that we know where we stand when we make the decision. We hope that the support will be significant enough to allow the event to continue for 2009, rather than forcing Rock Island to join other legendary street races like Elkhart and Quincy which now exist only in history books.

In addition to entries, sponsorships are still available ranging from $350 on up. Racers
can enter online with a credit card at www.rockislandgrandprix.com or print out the Entry Packet from the Web site and submit it by mail with a check or credit card number. You can also call our office and we will mail the Entry Packet to you.

If the Rock Island Grand Prix is the one race you look forward to, or a race you always wanted to run, you might make this the year. Otherwise the future is uncertain.

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