The future of Australia’s FIM Speedway Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium is now assured with the announcement of QBE Insurance Australia as the event’s naming rights partner.
By Hayden Gregory
Last year’s inaugural event under the roof at Etihad Stadium exceeded all expectations, drawing a crowd of just over 26,000 for a night of full throttle racing and entertainment on a ‘drop in’ track which, after the event, brought international praise from riders, officials and a large contingent of global media.
Etihad Stadium Acting Chief Executive Officer Michael Green said while the GP had been an overwhelming success, the construction of the track from scratch, the piecing together and transporting of an international grand prix from Europe, accompanied by a massive amount of infrastructure transported from Europe, came at a significant cost.
“We’re absolutely delighted that a leading insurer such as QBE has demonstrated confidence in our event and come on board as the naming rights partner,” Mr Green said.
“I know everyone from the event organiser and rights holder, BSI in the UK, to the riders and our own team including the track builders are thrilled with the very tangible support of QBE. It helps to build credibility and stability and we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.”
QBE’s partnership means for at least the next two years the event will be officially known as the QBE Insurance Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix.
Michael Gallagher, National Manager – Motorcycle, QBE Insurance Australia, said he was fortunate enough to have witnessed the excitement of last year’s event and the insurer was proud to be involved in 2016.
“We’re incredibly pleased to be establishing this partnership with the FIM Speedway Grand Prix and supporting one of the most exciting motorsport events in Australia,” Mr Gallagher said.
“QBE Insurance Australia has been involved with the motorcycle industry for more than 40 years and we’re looking forward to this new opportunity to stand with other passionate bike owners, riders and newcomers in October.”
This year’s event will be the second of a five year partnership with BSI, with the option of a further five years on top of that.
Michael Green said his team’s intention was to make the QBE Insurance Australian FIM Speedway Grand Prix on October 22 part of the Melbourne and Australian sporting landscape, and ultimately the best speedway grand prix in the world.
“Last year was a fantastic start and QBE’s involvement is another step in the right direction,” he said.
Tickets are already on sale through the Ticketmaster network, with sales just over six months out from the event already extremely encouraging!
How it works!
It is easy to follow. Four riders keep turning left over four laps and a race is complete in less than 60 seconds. But in that time there’s action a plenty. The riders race 500cc single-geared machines with no brakes. Each grand prix comprises 16 riders – 15 are regulars and the other is a wildcard nomination. The event in countries including the UK, Denmark, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the Czech Republic comprises 23 races which includes 20 heats, two semi-finals and the final. Riders carry forward their points from one grand prix to another and the World Champion is the rider with the highest aggregate at the end of the season.
Etihad Stadium Track Build
In order to drop in a specifically made grand prix track, Etihad Stadium purchased 5,500 tonnes of dirt, taking over a year to source. The dirt was initially tested and mixed before being trucked into the stadium on a Sunday with the build completed on schedule the following Wednesday, just two days before the commencement of racing. Overall the track was 346 metres in length – the straights were 12 metres and the corners extended 15 metres. Three time world champion and one of the sport’s most decorated riders and respected figures, Ole Olsen, headed up a group of specialists who worked alongside the Etihad Stadium Arena Management and Operations team to design the course.