F1 eyes US markets as CART stumbles

THE Formula 1 authorities are watching developments in the United States of America closely as CART tries to figure out how to survive. The series has produced some great races this year but is losing out to the rival Indy Racing League. CART's response has been to switch away from oval racing and move on to street and road courses. The problem with this is that CART has an agreement with the FIA not to expand on non-ovals outside the Americas.

At the moment CART's future is troubled with engine suppliers Ford and Honda both saying that they will not be continuing in the series when the new engine regulations are introduced in 2003. Toyota has already said that it is building an engine for IRL and the word is that the company will also be stopping its CART operation.

There is also speculation that Roger Penske, one of CART's founders, will soon announce that he is moving to IRL with Marlboro. This could be the start of a number of switches. Already Mo Nunn has said that he is planning to run one car in each series.

Jon Vannini is continuing his assault on the CART board of directors and this week filed another document with the US Securities and Exchange Commission calling for the resignation of six members of the board because of clashes of interest. Vannini said that Gerry Forsythe, Chip Ganassi, Barry Green, Carl Haas, Pat Patrick and Derrick Walker should resign because as team owners because they have "actual and potential conflicts of interest with CART and its shareholders". As examples of this he cited the fact that several teams owners are also race promoters, have relationships with other companies which are CART rivals and sold stock just before the announcement of the new engine package for 2003. He also cited the fact that CART bought a business from one of the directors for more than $10m and that this business closed down soon afterwards, leaving CART to take the loss.

Vannini said that he would like CART to create a new senior management position to run the business on a day to day basis and named Chris Pook as "the logical person for that position".

The only good news for the moment is that FedEx has renewed its title sponsorship of the series for "up to four years".

CART stock had been much traded of late with Vannini and others (including Forsythe) buying as many shares as possible as they try to win control of the series.

If Pook is appointed to a senior managing position it will be very interesting to see what CART will do. Given the growing strength of IRL in the United States it is possible that Pook might try and do a deal with Formula 1 so that the two series run together with CART on a Saturday and F1 on a Sunday. This would benefit both championships.

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