Officials rev up their enthusiasm for Modesto’s first grand prix

kvaline@modbee.comJanuary 10, 2014 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate text Kevin Valine
    Title: Reporter
    Coverage areas: City of Modesto and nonprofits
    Bio: Kevin Valine has been a copy editor and reporter at The Bee since January 2006. He's worked at the Reno Gazette-Journal, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Paradise Post as a reporter and copy editor. He's a graduate of San Jose State.
    Recent stories written by Kevin
    E-mail: kvaline@modbee.com

Modesto’s first grand prix is eight months away, but there was plenty of high-octane, full-throttle enthusiasm Friday during a DoubleTree Hotel news conference promoting the race.

City officials and race promoters expect the Aug. 1-3 race along downtown streets will draw more than 300 superkart drivers and more than 15,000 spectators for SuperKart USA’s pro tour summer nationals.

“This is the best fun you can have with your clothes on,” SuperKart USA owner Tom Kutscher told a crowd of more than 50 city and race officials and others at the DoubleTree. “This is going to be like a circus.”

The superkarts look like miniature Formula One race cars. They are expected to hit 100 mph on the straightaways. The race course is nearly 1 mile in length.

Mayor Garrad Marsh said the grand prix is an opportunity to showcase Modesto and the region. Organizers also said the race is a natural fit for Modesto because of its strong car culture, as exemplified by Modesto native son and iconic filmmaker George Lucas’ “American Graffiti.”

City officials have been searching for an event to promote Modesto and bring people downtown since the Amgen Tour of California – the biggest bicycle race in the nation – stopped including the city as part of the annual race a few years ago.

City officials expect that the racers, their pit crews and the spectators will spend about $1.2 million on hotel rooms, restaurants and other purchases during their three days in Modesto.

The grand prix will be held at night to avoid August’s triple-digit daytime temperatures. The course will be illuminated by streetlights and portable lights. There will be eight classifications of racers, from children to adults.

The city will have two pedestrian bridges over the race course so spectators can move about, and it will broadcast the races live on three large-screen televisions. The grand prix will feature events for children and their families; city officials are working out those details.

Modesto is partnering with Southern California-based SuperKart USA to put on the race. Their deal calls for race promoter SuperKart USA to run the race and take care of the technical details. The city’s duties include promoting the race and providing security, fencing and safety barriers for the racetrack.

Modesto estimates its costs at $286,000. But it expects to raise about $338,000 through ticket sales and sponsorships, allowing the city to net more than $50,000. DoubleTree is the host hotel, and Save Mart Supermarkets is the title sponsor and will provide $40,000 in support. Volvo Rents in Salida is providing 31/2 miles of fencing and other materials.

For more information, go to http://modestogp.com.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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