OCTOBER 14, 2001
The effects of Honda pulling out of CART
THE announcement that Honda is to withdraw from CART at the end of 2002 could lead to an earthquake in United States motor racing. The loss of a major manufacturer is a blow to any series but it was the way in which Honda departed which has dealt CART the toughest blow.
"Honda invests tremendous amounts of time, money and resources in its racing programs," remarked Tom Elliott, the boss of Honda Performance Development. "Confidence is an integral part of this long-term commitment and Honda cannot work in an environment where the sanctioning body has such little regard for its engine manufacturers."
This is damning criticism indeed and not what CART needs as it seeks to survive at a time when confidence in the future is low. The battle with the Indy Racing League appears to be a losing one and CART is struggling. At the moment Ford and Toyota are both still involved but Toyota has already announced that it will be supplying IRL engines in 2003. The future of Ford in CART is yet to be decided. Several CART team bosses (including the big names) are already tempted to move to IRL in the future.
There is some speculation that this could even lead to a complete collapse of CART with the teams all fleeing into IRL and road racing in the United States would take a huge hit. This would be good news for Formula 1 because several major venues would become available, notably the two West Coast events at Long Beach and Laguna Seca.
F1 teams make no secret of their desire to make a bigger impression in the United States and getting into the lucrative and cosmopolitan Californian markets would be a huge bonus. It would raise the profile of the sport.
This is all speculation at the moment but there is no doubt that US interest in F1 is growing. One or two of the CART team owners might even think about trying to put together F1 teams, or buying out some of the weaker organizations. Pat Patrick had a look at F1 a few years ago and more recently Bobby Rahal had a brief and tempestuous period in charge of Jaguar Racing.
One announcement does not necessarily change the world but Honda's withdrawal from CART may one day be seen as the moment that the CART-IRL battle was settled and F1 got a new lease of life in the United States.
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