Championship Auto Racing Teams buys 15-year license for downtown Miami Grand Prix
By Susan Stabley
Indianapolis-based Championship Auto Racing Teams has acquired 100% of Raceworks, the Miami-based company that promotes the Grand Prix Americas event.
Raceworks brought racing to downtown Miami in October and has set dates for next year's return of the Grand Prix Americas for Sept. 26-28.
The purchase of Raceworks also gives Championship, known as CART, the license to run the street race for the next 15 years. CART will construct a new section of the track creating a temporary circuit extending farther north along Biscayne Boulevard for the race's return.
This year, the Grand Prix Americas will be the 15th round of Bridgestone's "The Champ Car World Series" powered by Ford and will race with cars from the American Le Mans Series. The races are broadcast by CBS and SPEED Channel.
CART was intended to become majority owner of promoter Raceworks before last year's event, but the then-expected buyout of 60% was left hanging. Miami architect and developer Willy Bermello owned 33.33%, with attorney Peter Yanowitch having 63.67% and racing legend Emerson Fitipaldi 3%.
"Peter and Willy will still be involved in an advisory capacity," said Chuck Martinez, Raceworks Management president. But "the actual owners will be CART."
This isn't expected to change much for Mr. Martinez, who already works for CART. Management for Raceworks and the downtown race is operated much like a hotel franchise, where owners hire a company to manage the building. CART has already been in control of the race operation, he said.
"Basically, we operate the event and report to CART," Mr. Martinez said.
Financial information on the deal has not yet been released, he said.
The race has a lease with the city for 25 years. City Attorney Alex Vilarello said the ownership change would not affect the agreements Raceworks has with the city because the change in ownership had been discussed and acknowledged before agreements with the city were signed.
The Miami Sports & Exhibition Authority, a city agency, gave Raceworks, with the backing of CART, a $2 million loan to build the infrastructure used for the 2002 racecourse.
A city audit found 12,037 tickets were sold for the first three-day Grand Prix Americas race and an additional 12,062 were given free. Mr. Martinez estimated 85,000 spectators attended the three-day event.
Three sponsors of the street race will return for this year's event. The Inter-Continental Miami will be the official hotel and Mumm Champagne will be the champagne sprayed at the podium. Both have two-year contracts.
Mumm will also donate magnum bottles signed by Champ Car drivers to be auctioned off during the race's charity ball. Bridgestone Tires signed a one-year deal and will holding promotions throughout South Florida with the race organizers, including a "Free Friday" ticket.