Grand Prix to run as CART withholds signature on contract
By Paola Iuspa
Grand Prix Americas runs this weekend through downtown Miami with nationally known CART backing the event, although the auto racing organization has yet to sign a contract to become majority owner of Raceworks Management, event promoter.
Raceworks, with the backing of CART, got a $2 million loan from the Miami Sports & Exhibition Authority, a city agency, to build the infrastructure used for the race course.
Chris Pook, president & CEO of CART, which stands for Championship Auto Racing Teams, said Tuesday his group would buy 60% of Raceworks after the event once the promoter and Miami win a lawsuit brought against them by Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On Monday, an appellate court upheld a county court ruling finding the original agreement between Miami and Raceworks unconstitutional. But next week the law firm representing Homestead-Miami Speedway will bring another complaint against Miami and the promoter to challenge a second contract drawn up for the event.
The Homestead group last year sued Miami and Raceworks for signing a contract for the $6.5 million race without competitive bidding.
Mr. Pook said CART intends to be a majority owner of Raceworks.
"We will sign it as soon as the longtime agreement between the city and Raceworks is resolved," he said.
Miami architect and developer Willy Bermello owns 33.33% of Raceworks, attorney Peter Yanowitch owns 63.67% and racing legend Emerson Fitipaldi owns 3%.
The Grand Prix is billed as the first in the US where American Le Mans, CART FedEx Championship and Trans-Am's BF Goodrich Tires Cup races are held in one event.
The 1.57-mile circuit covers portions of Bayfront Park and Biscayne Boulevard. Racers are likely to reach speeds of more than 180 mph.
Mr. Pook said he expects 40,000 to attend each race.
The Monday ruling lifted a cloud over the event. Homestead Speedway officials said they would do nothing further to block the event.
"We will not seek further court action before the race," Mr. Lopez said.
Mr. Lopez said his client on Monday would go ahead with a new suit to challenge the city accepting CART as part owner without revoking Raceworks' license and issuing a new one reflecting the ownership change.
Frank Rollason, an assistant city manager, said last week the city does not intend to make any change to the contract. He said the license agreement is between the city and Raceworks, and any change in the promoter's ownership is immaterial.
Mr. Lopez said he would also argue that race preparations obstructed public access to the park for more than the three days allowed in the license agreement.
Although the city commission last week ruled that the administration failed to issue a valid permit to build the circuit in downtown streets, Mr. Lopez said, he would not use that to try to stop the race.
"If we prevent completion of the racecourse," he said, "that could create some liabilities.
"But if there is an accident this weekend, there are some liability issues the city may have to face."