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Australia rules out night race

Australian Grand Prix officials have ruled out turning the Melbourne event into a night race, despite mounting pressure for the change from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

With the race's current contract running out in 2010, Ecclestone has made it clear that unless the event turns into a night race then it will be dropped from the calendar.

"The only way the race could stay in Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia, is if it is staged during the night so that the public in Europe can watch it," Ecclestone told The Mail on Sunday. "At the moment, it is ridiculous that people are asked not to sleep in order to see it live. That can't carry on."

However, Drew Ward, the CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, believes that the decision to move the start time of the grand prix back to 3.30 pm is already enough to satisfy European television audiences.

Speaking to about the night race situation and Ecclestone's comments, Ward said: "In the present circumstances, the Victorian Government has ruled out a night race. What we have done this year is changed the F1 race time to later on the Sunday afternoon.

"It is a 3.30 pm race start, which will tie in a little better with the broadcast timing to the European timezone. It would not surprise me if we looked at that again for 2009.

"We think it is a sensible compromise, we think it works on both sides - it works for the broadcast audience and it works for the spectator attending the event. We think it is a launch pad for doing other things in the future."

Ward added that he was not unduly concerned at the moment about Ecclestone's threats, and said his focus was on delivering a good event next weekend.

"Frankly at the moment that is the least of my concerns," he said when asked about the long-term threat to the race. "We are very much focused on the events that are in front of us.

"We know that regardless of what happens beyond 2010, we have got a great event coming up in a week's time. There is also 2009, and 2010. And whatever happens beyond 2010 will sort itself out."

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