Oz organisers say GP is safe
Australian Grand Prix organisers insist the race will continue for at least another decade despite threats to scrap it from the Formula One calendar.

The FIA issued a statement over the weekend saying they would reconsider staging races in Australia after an ugly legal row with Paul Stoddart, the Melbourne-born owner of the struggling Minardi team.

However, Australian Grand Prix boss Ron Walker and Victoria state premier Steve Bracks dismissed the threats, saying the government had contracts in place guaranteeing Melbourne's right to host the race for another 10 years.

"The grand prix is here to stay," Bracks told reporters. "We have a secure, safe contract and there's as much chance of the grand prix going as there is a snowball in hell surviving."

The row erupted after stewards wanted to ban Minardi from competing at the season-opening race because their cars did not comply with newly-introduced technical regulations.

Stoddart took his case to the Victorian Supreme Court and received an injunction allowing his two cars to start in qualifying but FIA president Max Mosley retaliated by threatening to cancel the race.

Stoddart agreed to drop his legal action so the race would proceed, and his team then worked through the night to ensure their cars complied with the new regulations.

The FIA said they still wanted to discuss the Australian situation next month because their sport had been dragged through the courts.

However, Walker said he would fly to London this week to meet with Formula One commercial rights owner Bernie Ecclestone ahead of the meeting and was confident the threat would be withdrawn.

"I'm not going to get involved in the politics of the FIA," Walker said. "All we're saying is that this race is here to 2010 and Mr Bracks signed an option for another five years."

Walker said he also planned to discuss moving next year's Australian grand prix from March to April to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games.

Melbourne has staged the opening race of the season for the past decade, usually on the first weekend in March, but Walker believes it is too close to next year's Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Melbourne from March 15-26.

Walker, who is also in charge of the Commonwealth Games, said he wanted the race put back to the end of April, making it the third or fourth round of the season.

"We're hoping for an April 30 date," Walker said. "That hasn't been confirmed and I'm certainly not getting involved in the decision-making process because that's the domain of Mr Mosley and Mr Ecclestone, but we're hoping it will be April 30."

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Series Formula 1
Author Julian Linden
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