Australian Grand Prix slashes prices

Ticket prices for the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne’s Albert Park will be slashed for the first time in the event’s history in a major gamble to increase crowds at the Formula 1 event, the Sunday Herald Sun reported.

With the event now racking up annual taxpayer-funded losses of more than AU$50 million (US$48.8m), organizers have swung the ax on tickets for the four-day carnival.

A Sunday general admission ticket on race day will drop by as much as AU$31, with tickets sold before March 1 going for AU$79 — compared with AU$110 at the gate last year.

Pre-purchased tickets to the Saturday event will drop from AU$85 to AU$70, with Thursday and Friday entry prices to be frozen at this year’s prices.

The most expensive general admission ticket bought on the day of next year’s race — to be held on March 18 — will be AU$99 compared with AU$110 last year.

Organizers say 298,000 people attended this year’s event. They will be hoping cheaper tickets get more fans through the gates and cut its losses.

It is believed Melbourne race executives agreed to the price drop in response to growing public discontent about state government payments to the event, which this year totaled AU$50 million.

Debate about the grand prix’s future was sparked by Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle who questioned the long-term future of the major event.

The mayor’s call placed pressure on Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu about the event’s future and antagonized F1 owner Bernie Ecclestone. Victoria’s contract to host the event expires in 2015.