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OCTOBER 27, 2001

CART looking to share billing with F1?

THE chief executive of CART set tongues wagging in Australia when he remarked that he would like to see CART and Formula 1 cars racing on the same circuit on the same weekend.

"We believe that a CART race on Saturday and an F1 Grand Prix on Sunday would probably be the ultimate," he said. "It would overshadow any other race in the world. I would love to see it."

Nice idea though it may be, there is little chance that such a race meeting will ever happen as although Heitzler's comments would seem to suggest that CART might be willing to accept second billing to a Grand Prix, the idea of going head-to-head with CART is unlikely ever to be accepted by the F1 authorities as there is a danger that the CART race would be more spectacular than the F1 and that would create negative publicity for the Grand Prix circus.

Clearly there is a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment to have caused Heitzler to make such a comment and one can only assume that an attempt is being made by F1 to move in on one of CART's bigger events (such as Long Beach) and that Heitzler's "ultimate" racing weekend is actually a means of brushing off the move.

CART has made it clear that it is moving away from oval races and wants to build itself up as an open-wheeler road racing series. However if this policy is to be successful CART must restrict itself to the Americas and there is a long-standing agreement between CART and the FIA that the series will race only on ovals outside the Americas. Thus the races in Japan, Germany and Britain are all being held on ovals. The only way for CART to expand beyond that would be to do a deal with the FIA...

CART last week issued its results for the third quarter (which ended on September 30) announcing an increase in revenue over last year's third quarter of $1.8m. This was largely due to the fact that CART held its first races in Europe and the fees charged were higher than normal US races. However expenses were also higher and so CART ended up registering a third-quarter loss of $1.7m, compared to last year's third quarter profit of $7.8m.

The increased expenditure was due to the fact that CART had to pay out a settlement of $3.5m to Texas Motor Speedway over the cancellation of the event in April plus a payment of $8.5m to enable the organization to discontinue the Indy Lights Championship. Having said that the organization also registered drops in revenue from sponsorship, television, engine leases and rebuilds and other revenues. Total revenues for the first three-quarters of 2001 are down by nearly $5m and profits are down from last year's $15.9m to just $2.3m.

CART is now forecasting that sponsorship revenue for the whole year will be $13.3m, a decrease of 37% compared to last year. Television revenue is forecast to be about $5m. Other revenues are forecast to be down by 44%.