Australian Grand Prix reports heavy losses

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian Formula One Grand Prix lost a record A$40 million (16.3 million pounds) in 2008, organisers said Thursday.

The announcement came just months after the Victoria state government and race organisers agreed to underwrite the costs of staging the event until 2015.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone had threatened to dump Melbourne from the calendar after 2010 unless organisers switched to a night race to accommodate European television audiences.

Local officials refused to stage a night race but agreed to a compromise with a twilight start time.

They signed a five-year extension to 2015 in July, despite criticism that the race was becoming an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

Organisers lost $35 million on the race in 2007 and Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker said the losses were likely to continue in future years.

“In the current economic climate of high fuel and transport costs, the deficit between cost and revenue is expected to increase by 10 percent per annum,” Walker said in a report presented to the Victoria state government Thursday.

Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Martin Petty