Crisis Management - A1 Grand Prix

The 2009 Gold Coast street race was due to be the beginning of a new era – IndyCar had exited the race after nearly 20 years to concentrate on re-building the Series on American soil and the Gold Coast race organisers had attracted the A1 Grand Prix of Nations from Sydney.

The Surfers Paradise street circuit would have created the showpiece for A1GP in its fourth season, however at the end of the third season, questions arose about the financial viability of the Championship – which was a motor racing series where nations raced one another. It was originally designed as a platform for international trade relationships to be formed, utilising motorsport as the vehicle.

Within months of the new season starting on the Gold Coast, the whispers about A1GP’s viability became a roar within motorsport circles.

BAM Media provided the Queensland Government with intelligence that A1GP was in trouble, nevertheless A1 bosses and Australian representatives continued to maintain the Series would go ahead.

Despite the intelligence among the motor racing and business community, amid a media storm, A1GP took until six days before the event to notify the Queensland Government that it would not be present at the event.

Although having brought event organisers across this potential outcome months prior, BAM Media was responsible for making the announcement the Series would not be visiting Australia.

Meantime, BAM Media motivated the V8 Supercars-led format as the major category at the event, whilst attempting to appease sponsors and other stakeholders on the event promoter’s behalf.

Understanding that A1GP was unlikely to arrive in Australia, BAM Media’s Chairman, Brett Murray wrote a personal cheque to have a number of cars historic to Australian touring car racing prepared and brought to the Gold Coast for the event at the last moment, with their original drivers. It thus created the Pirtek Australian Touring Car Legends as a showpiece to the event.

The entire BAM Media team worked around the clock for five days to ensure the event went ahead with as smooth a transition as possible. BAM Media was responsible for managing the international media fallout from A1GP’s failure to arrive in Australia – as well as developing and selling the revised event four days before cars were due to hit the track.

By the end of the weekend, the event had taken place and also the seed planted for the international driver format that was a feature of the Gold Coast Street Race for many years.

In the subsequent Parliamentary enquiry around the event, Queensland Sport Minister at the time, Phil Reeves MP officially praised the efforts of Murray and BAM Media on the Hansard for its role in saving the event.

Despite the trouble, the event still attracted a crowd in excess of 205,000 people. The last minute pull out by A1GP locally had the potential to collapse the event.

BAM Media’s preparation for A1 Grand Prix’s non attendance assisted in minimising the harm that could have been caused.

Local media quickly caught onto the new concept and did its best to produce a positive spin on the event.

The result was an atmosphere that retained much of the carnival feel of the IndyCar days – with the crowd – especially local fans – supporting a uniquely Gold Coast event.